Know when to use the right fats in the kitchen.
Back in the summer I decided I’d had enough of the astronomical prices of odour-repelling exercise clothes, and purchased a cheap, no-name brand exercise t-shirt. It didn’t have special stitching, or unicorn hair woven into it, or a charcoal absorbent layer – it was just a green shirt. That weekend I wore it while running up Ribbon Creek, one of my favourite trails. After about 5 kilometres, I smelled like a kill site: flowers were wilting, hikers were feeling light-headed, and ravens were gathering close. Very quickly, I learned that not all exercise gear is created equal.
When cooking with fats, the same rule applies. Some fats can handle heat and some should stay on the shelf. It’s important for a kitchen master to know when to get safflower or hazelnut oil into the mix.
Not So Radical, Dude!
The wrong choice can lead to some unhealthy results. That’s because all fats have a smoke point, which is essentially a temperature that, if exceeded, causes it to become rancid. Rancid fats are caused by excessive heat, moisture or oxygen and are full of free radicals, which are not nearly as radical as their name. In fact, free radicals destroy tissue in the body, attack red blood cells and accelerate ageing. Bummer, dude.
Some fats become rancid more easily than others. These fats are called polyunsaturates and include flax oil, borage oil and cod liver oil. Ever wonder why you always buy these in dark bottles? Thats because even room temperature and sunlight can cause them to go rancid. Polyunsaturates can be as delicate as a glacier lily. Saturated fats, however, are much more durable and have a much higher smoke point. Youll find saturated fats in lard, palm oil and coconut oil.
To Pam or Not To Pam
So now you’re thinking, “Does that mean the Pam spray I use on all my pans is bad for me?” Well, if you’re frying with it, then yes. The canola oil used in Pam is an unsaturated fat and not meant for high-temperature frying. I strongly recommend you pick up some coconut oil for the next time you fry up some sunny side eggs.
On the other hand, if you were to use that Pam cooking spray to grease up a baking pan for some delicious granola bars then youre probably fine. This chart should give you a good idea of when to use which fats.
Low Heat (baking)
Med Heat (light sauté)
High Heat (frying, browning)
|flax seed oil, hemp seed oil, cod liver oils||safflower oil, sunflower oil, pumpkin oil||olive oil, hazelnut oil, sesame oil||coconut oil, palm oil, lard|
Cooking with fats isn’t as simple as firing up the burner and getting started. A little planning will go a long way in saving your body from the damage free radicals cause.
Now I’m off to go buy a new shirt.