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Cooking oils

Sarah Horrocks
by Sarah Horrocks Published on 10 December 2007
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Which type of oil should you use for frying, heating, cold dishes and cakes? Follow our cooking oil guide!

Definitions:
Virgin olive oil: extracted by crushing the fruit without chemical treatment.
First cold press (cold extraction): extracted cold (the fruit is not cooked). This type of oil is more expensive, has a better taste and is used raw or in seasoning.
Acidity levels: the higher the acidity, the lower quality the oil. This is linked to how fresh and natural the fruit and stones used are.


How is it obtained?

- Cold extraction: the fruit or seeds are pressed using a machine, the oil obtained is decanted and then filtered.
- Two phase extraction: cold pressure is applied, then the residue is heated to obtain more oil.
- Hot extraction: the fruit and stones are heated to make oil extraction easier. They are then crushed, the oil is treated and then re-heated several times.

Cooking oils and their uses:

Sunflower oil

Used alone, for cooking or frying (at a maximum temperature of 180°C), sunflower oil is thick, which makes it ideal for vinaigrette, marinade and mayonnaise. It's also widely used in cake-making because of its neutral taste.

Olive oil

Used alone, for cooking or frying (at a maximum temperature of 180°C). Virgin olive oil from cold extraction is best used cold for its nutritional benefits and taste.

Rapeseed oil

Mainly used in seasoning, rapeseed oil stands up to cooking well (contrary to popular opinion!), but loses a lot of its nutritional qualities when heated. Its essential fatty acids are excellent for the skin if you have it cold.

Peanut oil

Peanut is a multi-purpose oil that's perfect for frying and can stand temperatures of up to 220°C. It has a neutral taste and is suitable for sweet or savoury recipes. Careful of nut allergies.

Grapeseed oil

Ideal for frying and pan-frying, and great for fondue, grapeseed oil has a neutral but bitter taste which can be a bit funny in vinaigrette and mayonnaise. Taste-test it before you make a bowlful!

Sesame oil

Plain oil or grilled sesame oil is very aromatic and stands up to heat well but does alter slightly when heated. It's better to add it towards the end of cooking as seasoning. It's best in wok cuisine, stocks and marinades. Make sure you test it first before using it in your cakes and biscuits!

Corn oil

A neutral-tasting oil that can be used for frying (at a maximum temperature of 180°C), in seasoning or for pan-frying, and is recommended for greasing or maintaining grill-pans.

Palm oil

Palm oil is widely used in North African cuisine and is obtained by extracting fruit from palm trees. It's red in colour and sets when cold because it is high in saturated fat. It keeps well.

Coconut oil

Like palm oil, coconut oil sets when cold. It is obtained from the dried coconut kernels called copra. It's a multi-purpose oil but is best used in hot cooking.

Argan oil

Rare and expensive, argan oil is best used cold. It's widely used in Moroccan cuisine and is eaten with bread at breakfast-time. It has a delicate, fruity taste.

Walnut oil

Walnut oil is very aromatic but fragile. It is used in seasoning and has to be kept in the fridge. It's wonderful with meat, white fish, figs, pears, mozzarella and goat's cheese.

Hazelnut oil

Hazelnut oil has the same use as walnut oil and also has to be kept in the fridge. It goes really well with avocado, cooked carrots, starch, white meat, oily fish, chocolate and grains.

Linseed or flax seed oil

Linseed is a rare and fragile oil that has to be kept in the fridge. It goes off quickly and if it starts to smell fishy it shouldn't be used.

by Sarah Horrocks

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