Do you find yourself standing in the oil aisle at the supermarket, looking at the hundreds of bottles, wondering what the difference is? Me too!! I use a variety of different cooking oils throughout my cookbooks, so here is a handy explanation of the types of cooking oils.
Virgin and Regular Olive Oil: Olive oil comes in varying grades from extra virgin to a blended mix found in most supermarkets. To explain the difference, it is interesting to note how the oil is produced.
1st step. Olives are picked, sorted and washed.
2nd step. They are placed in a press to extract the oil, this is known as the first or ‘virgin’ press and gives rise to what we call Extra Virgin Oil. When buying, look out for the words ‘first, cold pressed’ on the label to ensure you are buying the correct oil. This oil is THE best to buy as it hasn’t been heated and therefore still loaded with flavour and nutrients. It is best used on salads or at the very end of a cooking process.
3rd step. A second press produces Virgin Oil. During this process, the oil is slightly heated, thereby losing some of its nutrients and flavour. Virgin oil is best used in most types of cooking except for frying as its ignition point (the point where it will catch alight) is relatively low.
4th step. The third press process produces Olive Oil, which is best used in all general cooking.
Coconut Oil: this oil is extracted from the meat of matured coconuts. It has a slightly nutty flavour that works well in both savoury and sweet dishes, such as baking or sautéed dishes, as a butter replacement.
Avocado Oil: this oil is made from pressing the flesh of avocados. It complements seafood and salads and can be drizzled over roasts prior to baking. It is sensational in the place of peanut or sesame oil in salads.
Grapeseed Oil: is a vegetable oil pressed from the seeds of various varieties of Vitis vinifera grapes, an abundant by-product of winemaking. This oil is fabulous in salad dressings and also in barbeque marinades as it has a very unobtrusive flavour.
Macadamia Oil: macadamia oil is cold-pressed from the nuts of the macadamia tree. Macadamia oil is the ‘crème de la crème’ of nut oils. It is an excellent frying oil due to its high ignition point and LOADED in nutrients.
Sunflower Oil: is ideal for use as a general cooking oil and, because of its very mild taste, at those times when you don’t want a strong intrusive flavour such as in making mayonnaise, baking cakes and frying.
Sesame Oil: this naturally is obtained from sesame seeds. It is a very flavoursome oil and should be used sparingly as a dressing for salads and stir-fries. It is best to use only a small amount due to its low ignition point to ensure the oil doesn’t smoke.
Walnut Oil: with a delicate, nutty flavour, this oil is perfect in a salad dressing, drizzled over steamed vegetables, flavouring for fish or steak, or for use in baking.