What we use to cook our food is just as important as the food we eat. Heart disease runs in my family, as well as a plethora of other diseases, so I try my best to eat the healthiest of foods. I am very conscious with what I eat and the products I use on my body and in my home; that includes the fats and oils I choose to cook with.
There are a handful of cooking oils that I prefer to use on a daily basis. In this post, I will share with you how and why I choose these oils and I will use some unfamiliar words like “smoke point” and “oxidation”.
Smoke point is the temperature in which the oil begins to break down and oxidize resulting in the smoking and burning of the oil. Oil oxidation is the chemical reaction in which high temperatures, light, moisture and oxygen exposure can begin to damage the flavor of the oil making it rancid.
All of the oils I will be sharing with you have many health benefits in and out of the kitchen. While there are many debates regarding their uses, this is my personal choice for my family.
For as far back as I can remember, my family has cooked using extra virgin olive oil picked from the trees in our village. I remember waking up before dawn, during olive picking season, and going to my grandparent’s land and picking olives till sundown. It was a beautiful time with all of us gathered under the trees, picking olives and breaking bread together. It was always fun going to school the next day and sharing with my friends the amazing experience I had the day before. We would have school field trips to the oil press to see dark green olives turn into a beautiful liquid gold; it is still one of my favorite childhood memories.
Olive oil is one of the tastiest oils and is very popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern culture and cuisine. The smell of fresh pita bread, olive oil and zait o za’tar (zaatar and oil) brings back a flood of memories that makes me miss home. My people have cooked with it for centuries, dipped their bread in it and used to it to dress many dishes and salads. It has many health benefits and is used to make many beauty products including soap.
Back home when a family recipe calls for oil, it is almost always olive oil. Corn oil is used for deep frying but that is not the best option. I’m breaking the trend a little bit, because I personally don’t cook with olive oil. That may surprise many of you but olive oil has a smoke point of 325° F. For that reason, I like to use it cold (room temperature) to dress salads and to drizzle on dishes after they are cooked.
When I first got married and moved away from my family, I remember standing in the oil section at my grocery searching for the best olive oil. I was inspecting every bottle trying to find the best one. I was holding it up towards the light, gently shaking it, trying to find the best consistency without actually opening the bottle and smelling it. I’m sure my new husband at the time thought I was crazy but I grew up with the best quality olive oil and I was trained to differentiate between the good and the bad oil.
There are many different brands and types of olive oil that finding the best one may seem a little overwhelming. I’m here to help you out! When shopping for olive oil, cold pressed, extra virgin in a dark glass bottle is best- the darker the bottle, the better. Light, sun and heat damages the oil so having it in a dark glass bottle makes it less susceptible to damage. I have tried many different brands over the years, the ones I have been enjoying lately are Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Coconut oil has been a part of my life ever since my brother-in-law introduced it to me a few years ago. I was vegan at the time and was using it often. I loved all the health benefits and fell in love with using it daily. A simple online search of “coconut oil uses” and you’ll find hundreds of ways to use coconut oil besides the kitchen.
Coconut oil is different than most oils. It solidifies when the temperature is under 76°F and turns into a liquid at 76°F or higher. It is made from the delicate extraction of the white meat from the coconut and can be stored at room temperature.
There are many types of coconut oil but the most popular two are, refined and unrefined. Refined coconut oil is pressed using high heat. It goes through a chemical process to make the oil whiter and to make the taste and smell less like coconut. Unrefined coconut oil is pressed cold without the use of high heat. The cold pressed oil doesn’t lose its vitamins and nutrients making it a virgin oil.
Though coconut oil is not popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, it is very popular in the Paleo world due to its high smoke point of 350°F. It is used in Paleo cooking and baking and is added to shakes, smoothies, coffee and tea. It has a sweet smell and tastes delicious on its own. I like to spread it with a little honey on toasted Paleo bread or Paleo banana muffins and pretend it’s butter.
When shopping for coconut oil, unrefined, cold pressed is the purest form and is the best. My favorite has been Carrington Farm’s Cold-Pressed Organic Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil.
Avocados are some of my favorite fruits because they are full of so many health benefits. I began using avocado oil earlier this year and it quickly became a household favorite. My husband prefers using it over coconut oil because of its added nutritional value and anti-inflammatory powers.
Avocado oil has recently gained it popularity in the Paleo world and has, somewhat, replaced olive oil for cooking. It has a very mild flavor and is light in color, making it perfect for making homemade mayonnaise, marinades and dressings. It has a very high smoke point of 500°F, the highest of all the oils mentioned above, making it perfect for frying, and oven roasting meats and vegetables.
Avocado oil is pressed from the green flesh of the avocado making it high in antioxidants and vitamins. Like coconut and olive oils, avocado oil should be stored in a cool, dry place. It has many uses outside of the kitchen and is an ingredient found in cosmetics and many natural beauty products.
Avocados are one of the foods that you don’t need to buy organic as they are on the list of clean foods. When shopping for avocado oil, cold pressed and naturally refined is best. My favorite is Chosen Foods 100% Pure Avocado Oil.
When I’m not on the Whole30, I occasionally use organic grass-fed unsalted butter. My favorites are Kerrygold Pure Irish Grass-Fed Butter and Anchor Pure New Zealand Grass-Fed Butter.