What Oil to Cook With
It’s been about three weeks since I was first asked this question and I promised an answer in the form of a blog post.
Not for Cooking
The easiest way to determine if an oil is good to cook with is by using some simple elimination criteria.
1. Is it good for me?
This eliminates all hydrogenated, highly processed, and chemically produced oils.
Made by nature or Dr. Frankenstein?
If you need a Ph.D to make it, do not eat it. Anyone with arms can make Extra Virgin Olive, Coconut, Avocado, etc oils themselves just by pressing really hard. The more times pressure is applied, the less virgin it is.
Simply put, if you do not know what the plant the oil came from is do not eat it. If you are a botanist and can identify the plant, squeeze it until you get the oil and can cook with it.
If it requires chemicals to make it shelf stable do not eat it.
Here’s a short and nowhere near all inclusive list of oils to avoid:
*The list is not in any order. NONE OF THESE SHOULD BE CONSUMED BY ANYTHING LIVING
2. What is the smoke point?
There are plenty of oils (which is really just a euphemism for fat source) that are good for you that I do not recommend cooking with. Chief among these is olive oil. The less refined an oil is, the lower the smoke point is going to be. For olive oil that is around 400 degrees.
So what is a smoke point? It is the point at which organic compounds within an oil begin to oxidize, burn, and thus release smoke. More refined means less organic compounds to burn, and hence the higher smoke point.
These charred organic compounds are what is known as rancid fats. That name is sort of self explanatory. Things that are rancid taste bad and are given a pretty strong name for a reason: you shouldn’t eat them. They have many carcinogenic (cancer producing) and gut-irritating compounds that are obviously not good for you.
*This doesn’t mean never cook with olive oil, just save it for low temperature cooking.
3. How does it taste?
Once you get to this point you’re options may seem limited, but its really more liberating. You now have the opportunity to worry less about the source of oil and more about the actual ingredients that you are cooking.
The two best options are: Rendered Fat from grass-fed, grass-finished sources and Coconut Oil (extra virgin)
I buy my coconut oil in bulk from Tropical Traditions. Most brands of Coconut Oil sold in stores here are pretty expensive and in pretty small quantities. Buy a huge tub in bulk and use it for a long time.