Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cooking oils

Just a quick note today to point you towards this article by Harold McGee in the New York Times. McGee is without a doubt one of the most interesting food writers in operation. His book On Food and Cooking is absolutely essential reading.

His column in the Times this week is about cooking oil. The basic point is that most oils (good olive oil, bad olive oil, refined seed oil, etc.) are pretty much indistinguishable once heated:

We were surprised at how thoroughly heat obliterated the flavors in cooking oil until they all tasted more or less the same. Even prize-winning, and costly, extra-virgin olive oils lost much of what makes them special, though they retain their apparently healthful pungency. To get food with the green and fruity flavor of good olive oil, it seems more economical and effective to fry with an inexpensive refined oil and drizzle on a little fresh olive oil after cooking.

I've always used a slightly fruity but fairly neutral olive oil as my everyday basic cooking oil, but I might consider using more seed oil now.

Readers, do you have any thoughts on this?


  1. I've started to switch to plain old canola oil for most cooking, especially at high heat - I know there's differences in what types of oil are supposed to be used for certain types of heat, but it's flown out of my head.

  2. I would say use Safflower oil over Canola. Rapeseed, from which Canola is made, is pretty strange stuff.

  3. I almost never use olive oil for cooking because of it's very low smoke point. Get that stuff hot enough and you are breathing fairly toxic smoke. I was using Grapeseed oil for my cooking for many years. Then I realized my diet was full of Omega-6 but very little Omega-3. I have since switched to Canola for my cooking / frying and then putting a tablespoon of Flax oil directly on my food every day. That gives me more than enough Omega-3 every day.