HIGH QUALITY OLIVE OIL
- Always check the use-by date on oil before buying. Oils should also carry a ‘packaged on’ date and the closer to the packaged date you can buy an oil, the fresher it is. Be wary of oils that are reduced in price, as they could well be old.
- Keeping oil in the fridge is not necessary but is an option. Oils higher in fat content, such as olive oil, tend to solidify and turn opaque in the fridge. Simply bring to room temperature before use. If preparing freshly chopped garlic or chillies to store in the fridge, it is best to use a vegetable oil to avoid having it solidify in cold storage.
- Buy oil in smaller quantities if you keep it near the stove.
- Keep oil out of direct sunlight. Store in a place that is cool, dry and dark, such as a pantry or cupboard. Buying oil in a tin is advantageous, as light cannot penetrate the container.
All fats and oils eventually break down and become rancid with prolonged exposure to air, light and heat. The only way to tell if an oil is old or rancid is to open it and smell. Rancid oils have a stale, soapy smell and lose the strong characteristics of that particular oil as well as forming free radicals (which change cell membranes, suppress the immune system and promote the development of cancer and arteriosclerosis). If an oil is rancid, take it back to the shop if it is newly purchased or throw it out, there is nothing that can be done. Once you are used to detecting the rancid odour, you may well be surprised at how often you encounter the smell in other fat, or oil-based products.
- Oils made from nuts are the most unstable of all oils (although macadamia is the best of them), so buy in smaller quantities and try to use well before the use-by date.
- If you deep-fry often, speak to your local council as they may have a collection depot nearby where you can drop off used cooking oil to be sold to companies that make truck fuel.
- Recycled oil can be used for day-to-day cooking as well as further deep-frying. Polyunsaturated oils can only be used once, while olive oil and unrefined peanut oil last longer and can be strained and reused two or three times.
- Oil that has had seafood cooked in it should not be reused to cook sweet foods, but can be reused to cook more seafood. However, oil that has been used to cook say, donuts, can be reused to cook seafood.
- Never get in the habit of pouring oil down the sink. Pour cold oil into an empty plastic or metal container with a lid (old milk or cream containers, jam jars and the like) before putting in the rubbish.
BEST OIL FOR THE JOB
For salads and other cold dishes where the oil will be tasted clearly, try the stronger oils like walnut, hazelnut, macadamia and extra virgin olive oil. Flavoured oils like citrus, chilli, coffee, herb, garlic and others are intended to give flavour and lift to an otherwise drab dish or salad. Sesame oil is misunderstood and often abused: use it in small quantities as a seasoning, as you would salt and pepper, in stir-fries or Asian-style dressings
For cooking, use unrefined oils. A quality roasted peanut oil is good for cooking as well as salads, but unrefined peanut oil is better for frying. There is a school of thought that believes any oil becomes toxic once heated and so oil should never be used for cooking – here is not the place to analyse that theory. Certainly, the hotter the oil gets, the faster it will oxidize and break down. Shortly before smoking point, oils begin to decompose, thus forming free radicals and acrolein, a toxic smoke. Oil at smoking point is generally considered not fit for human consumption, as it can’t be properly digested by the liver.
The following fats and oils are low in essential fatty acids, therefore produce the lowest amount of toxic molecules when heated. So although most of them are saturated fats, they are considered the better option for cooking: butter, lard, tropical fats (coconut and palm oil), high oleic sunflower oil (not ordinary sunflower), high oleic safflower oil (not ordinary safflower), peanut oil, sesame oil, canola oil, and olive oil – in that order of preference.
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