Oils, Oils, Cooking Oils
There are so many different cooking oils on the market that it's hard to determine which one is best for which cooking style. These oils are pure fat but have different flavors and smoke points that make them good for different uses. Here are a few of the oils/fats that I use most often and how I use them.
There are so many different kinds of oils and fats out there that it can be overwhelming. Butter alone has a lot of options: salted or unsalted, Irish or French, clarified or a butter substitute. Then there are the oils: sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil, avocado oil, olive oil, sesame oil, and the list can go on forever. I'm not going to go over all the different types of fats because that would take an eternity to do. Instead I'll just introduce you to some of the fats I keep on hand and how I use them.
Butter has the most delicious taste. The problem is that it's not the best for you because it's high in saturated fat. But I'm not a "never use butter" kind of person. Butter has it necessities. Butter is great for baking in cakes and cookies but it also has savory benefits too. Butter helps to protect chicken breast and turkey breasts while roasting so that it stays juicy and helps the bird to get that golden brown color. Butter also has a creamy, fatty taste that is good for just eating on bread.
You can find it anywhere and it's super versatile
Olive oil may seem straight forward but it's as complex as wine. Just like wine, it can have floral notes and earthy notes. It can have a light taste or a richness that coats your mouth long after it's gone. Olive oil is one of my most used oils. It is high in polyunsaturated fats which are protective for your heart. Just remember that it is still a fat but it's a healthier fat for your everyday cooking. It doesn't have the highest smoke point so it's not the most versatile for high heat cooking like grilling, stir-fry, or deep frying. (Smoke point = the temperature at which it starts to burn or smoke)
Extra virgin olive oil is olive oil that is freshly pressed. It hasn't gone through any refining process. The "light" version of olive oil doesn't refer to the calories being reduced. It means that the oil has undergone further processing and has a lighter taste. It also has a higher smoke point so it can be used for high heat cooking methods.
The new kid on the block that's got the taste of butter without the dairy
Ghee is made by removing all the milk solids from butter. It's clarified butter. It's the same drawn butter that comes with your lobster and crab legs. Despite the hype, there aren't any real health benefits to ghee over butter. It has a higher smoke point than butter so it can be used like any liquid oil with the taste of butter but without the dairy parts. So it's great for diets that are avoiding dairy. I like to use ghee when cooking Indian dishes just to feel more authentic when cooking. Ghee is used in a lot of Indian and Middle Eastern dishes.
Avocado isn't just for guacamole anymore
Avocado oil has a distinct taste. It tastes like avocado. So you may not want to use avocado oil in baking. Avocado oil has similarities to olive oil as far as cooking qualities so you can use it in similar ways.
For the win...
Canola oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats. It doesn't have a distinct flavor and it has a high smoke point. What do these things mean? It means that you can use it often because it's a "healthier" fat. You can use it in almost any kind of cooking because it won't alter the taste of your dish. You can use it to fry and stir-fry and use it in marinades for grilling because it can withstand high temperatures. Because of it's versatility I use canola oil often.
When you want a little extra pizzazz
Sesame oil is a finishing oil. It has a strong nutty flavor so using a little bit at a time is best. Sesame oil is used often in Middle Eastern, African, and Southeast Asian cuisines. It's smoke point is very low so it can't withstand much heat. It's often used after the cooking process is over or at the very end so that it won't be heated for long. It will burn quickly and turn bitter and will ruin whatever you're cooking. So be careful when using this oil.
These are just a few of the oils and fats. There are so many more options available. Go out and try out new oils and expand your flavors. Maybe you can even have a tasting party with different breads to determine what you really like. Let me know what are your favorite oils.