You know that uneasy feeling you get when something isn’t right? But for whatever reason you keep pushing the feeling away with your best ostrich-head-in-the-sand impersonation.
For ages I had that feeling about my cooking oils.
Back in the day, I used to keep two oils in the house. An expensive extra virgin olive oil for salads and drizzling and a cheap olive oil for cooking.
It was simple and pretty economical. Life was good.
Then I started reading about olive oil having a low smoke point. Which means it breaks down at high temperatures releasing free radicals and other nasties. Not great for cooking.
So I did some research and switched my cooking oil to rice bran oil.
Why rice bran oil?
It has a nice high smoke point. So stable for cooking with. And I could get it in bulk at the supermarket so it’s not prohibitively expensive. Plus is doesn’t have much flavour so I could use it for my mayo too.
Back to the good life. Or so I thought…
Over time I started to learn about omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3s are the ones that come to mind when you think of the benefits or fish oils. Omega-6s, tend to be found in vegetable oils and unlike omega-3s they aren’t great for your health. Mainly because they promote inflammation.
Wasn’t rice bran oil really a type of vegetable oil?
That nagging thought tried to push through but I just buried my head a little deeper in the sand. And as any good ostrich knows it’s pretty difficult to hear much less think down there.
But since I’ve been experimenting with eating MORE fat. I had to let the thought through.
And wouldn’t you know it? Rice bran oil has virtually no omega-3s and loads of omega-6 fatty acids. Not good.
I tried coconut oil but wasn’t a fan of the flavour in all situations. I tried macadamia oil but the flavour didn’t work so well and besides I couldn’t afford more than a tiny bottle. Avocado oil didn’t work on both flavour and smoke point grounds. Peanut oil was just as bad as rice bran from a fatty acid perspective. And I already knew to avoid canola or any other ‘vegetable oil’.
What did that leave?
Olive oil, duck fat (delicious but expensive) or clarified butter / ghee (tasty but some work required).
So I looked further into the olive oil thing. And finally got some good news.
Extra virgin olive oil did indeed have a low smoke point (160C / 320F). But refined olive oil, my old favourite ‘cheap’ oil, had a respectable smoke point (200C / 400F). Surely I wasn’t often exposing my food to temperatures higher than that?
So I started checking the temperatures as I was cooking with (luckily my Irishman has a ‘thing’ for temperature probes so we own a laser temperature gun). And the actual food wasn’t getting that hot. Phew.
The great Stonesoup Oil Crisis was resolved.
I went back to using two olives oils plus a few more. Here’s where I’m at today…
My Current Fats & Oils Collection
1. Extra virgin olive oil.
For salad dressings and drizzling.
2. Extra light olive oil.
For every day cooking such as pan frying and roasting. And making mayo as in the recipe below.
3. Coconut Oil.
For baking sweet treats, cooking stir frys and curries. I love the sweet flavour it gives to cakes but not so keen on it with my breakfast fried eggs and kale.
4. Salted Butter.
Our favourite is Kerrygold the Irish butter. Butter from grass fed cows is preferable because the type of feed influences the types of fatty acids in the butter. So grass-fed = more beneficial omega-3s. I actually came home with 6kg (12lb) Kerrygold in my suitcase on our recent trip to Ireland.
5. Unsalted Butter.
For baking cakes etc. I use it when I don’t want the flavour of coconut oil to come through.
6. Duck Fat.
This saturated fat is really stable so great for roasting at high temps. It’s also super delicious especially on roast potatoes. Expensive though.
7. Rice Bran Oil.
On the odd occasion that I deep fry food, rice bran oil is my go-to because it is stable at high temps. Since I’m not frying very often I figure the exposure to the extra omega-6s isn’t going to cause a big problem.
What about you?
What oils do you use for cooking? Are you having your own great oil crisis? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…
Pregnant Lady Mayo
By using boiling water you can ‘pasteurize’ your egg yolks and make safe mayo for pregnant ladies… hooray! Also much safer for everyone else. Will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.
This recipe can be halved, but if your food processor is very large you’ll need to be extra careful when adding your oil to make sure it doesn’t split. And I like the flavour that onion powder gives but it’s totally optional.
I used to not like using olive oil for mayo because I found it gave a bitter taste. But there’s a food science solution to this! Just be sure to be generous when seasoning with salt because salt helps to mask bitter flavours. It really makes a huge difference.
makes: 3 cups
takes: 15 minutes
2 egg yolks at room temperature
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons rice, sherry or white wine vinegar
1 scant teaspoon onion powder (optional)
3 cups extra light olive oil or other neutral flavoured oil
1. Whizz egg yolks and boiling water together in your food processor with a big pinch of salt. Add mustard and vinegar and whizz again.
2. With the motor still running, add the oil a few drops at a time, then build up to a thin stream and then a slightly more daring stream until most of the oil is incorporated.
3. Taste and season, adding the onion powder now (if using). Feel free to add more vinegar, onion powder or mustard if you like. Whizz to combine.
4. If the mayo is a little too runny, add the remaining oil. Too firm, add a little cold water.
Video version of this recipe.
no mustard – just skip it!
herby – stir chopped herbs like chives, dill, parsley or basil through your finished mayo.
garlicky – add a clove or two of crushed garlic.
lemony – replace vinegar with lemon juice and add the zest of 1 lemon.
limey – replace vinegar with lime juice and add the zest of 1 lime.
no food processor – just whisk by hand. Will work just as well and give you good arm muscles at the same time!