by Cameron Curtis in How-to, February 18th, 2014
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, November 7th, 2013
It’s no longer just a choice between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. We’ve broken down common cooking oils (plus a few new comers) so you can pick the right one for dinner tonight.
1. Canola Oil
The high smoking point of this neutral-tasting oil makes it your best bet for dishes like fried chicken or french fries. It’s also handy when making homemade mayonnaise.
2. Coconut Oil (Unrefined)
This trendy oil is praised as an all-natural vegan butter substitute. Use it for baking or quick sauteing, because of its low smoking point; use it as a spread for a hint of coconut flavor.
3. Corn Oil
This mild-flavored oil is inexpensive to produce and has a high smoking point for deep-frying but it’s refined, which means it is stripped of most nutrients.
Some of you know that I live in San Diego, which I love. You may also know (if you read my post on pumpkin puree) that I feel a little left out of the fall rituals that I cherished during my years living back East — pulling out the cardigans, folding up and putting away all my “summer clothes,” switching to roasted dinners, eating winter squash (I just had perfect watermelon, and it’s November!). But I had a glimmer of a cold front arriving the other day. I hopped out of the shower, grabbed my jar of coconut oil, and it was solid. You see, coconut oil melts at 76 degrees F, so it has been probably 10 months since I’ve seen solid coconut oil in my home. I can officially join the rest of the country celebrating autumn. Solid coconut oil is my personal version of the Pumpkin Spice Latte — it lets me know it’s OK to start my holiday shopping.
Coconut oil is perhaps the most purchased and used oil in my house, because I use it in the kitchen and as a beauty product; I have one jar in the pantry and one in my bathroom. This versatile oil is solid at comfortable room temperature, but its low melting point means it is usually on the brink of melting. This is actually a huge plus, because it can act like solid fats (butter, shortening) in a cool room, but just adding a few more degrees of heat will enable you to treat it like almost any other oil (with an amazing subtle taste). So if you want to cook with it as a solid (try replacing some of the shortening or butter in crust), then you would likely want to chill it a little in the refrigerator (or just keep your kitchen cold). If you want to cook with coconut oil as a flavorful substitute for other oils (try sauteing carrots in coconut oil with some shallots and chipotle powder), then you can just spoon out the oil and let it melt in a pan — or pop it in the microwave for a few seconds. To use coconut oil as a beauty product, I just scoop out a little and place it in my palm, where it melts from my skin’s heat within seconds.