No cooking is complete without cooking oil, especially in Indian households. But we’ve been resorting to the plain old vegetable oil for eons now. If you want to switch things up a bit, there’s a huge variety of cooking oils you can choose from. Such as sesame oil which impart the food with an earthy flavour, or safflower oil which has a neutral taste and must be used purely for its functionality. They’re all either exceptionally flavourful or supremely healthy and bring a whole new dimension to your everyday food.
Most of these cooking oils mentioned below are cold-pressed ones. They’re a healthy alternative to refined cooking oils because unlike them these tend to retain their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
1. Avocado Oil
A multi-purpose cooking oil, cold-pressed avocado oil packs essential nutrients such as Omega-3, Omega-6, Omega-9, antioxidants and Vitamin E. It has a high smoke point, at 400ºF, and adds a mild nutty and grassy flavour to the food cooked in it. It tastes more subdued than olive oil, hence is great for a variety of cooking. It can, alternatively, be also used as a salad or a sandwich dressing, thanks to its buttery texture, or for lightly roasting and sauteing vegetables.
2. Sesame Oil
Sesame oil is made from naturally grown sesame seeds. However, the best ones are those made using the traditional, wood-pressed method that help retain all its nutrients. Known to boost and improve mood, the copper and zinc in the oil is also great for hair health. The earthy, nutty flavours of sesame oil go particularly well with Asian cuisine; you could use it both for deep-frying or as a dipping sauce, with some herbs and chillies mixed in it.
3. Coconut Oil
Great for cooking Indian or Thai dishes, coconut oil tends to lend the food a continental flavour. It can also be a good substitute for butter in vegan baking. Or you could have it raw and mix it in your salads. Though, remember to have the salad fresh and not cold since the oil has a tendency to freeze. Additionally, the presence of lauric acid in coconut oil augments metabolism, immunity and digestibility. It’s one oil that marries great taste with great health.
4. Safflower Oil
Made using safflower seeds (don’t mistake it for ‘sunflower’ seeds) that comes from a tall plant with spiky leaves and yellow or orange flowers, safflower oil is great for high-temperature cooking. It is especially great for frying. So the next time you want to have those pakoras, try them in safflower oil. The oil is a mild, unobtrusive one; and doesn’t impart any taste or aroma to the dishes.
5. Groundnut Oil
This clear, pale yellow oil with a distinctive nutty taste has a high smoke point and hence can be easily used for high-temperature cooking. Additionally, it can be used for deep-frying, pan-frying, roasting or grilling. Also known as peanut oil, it has numerous health benefits owing to its good monounsaturated fat content.
6. Flaxseed Oil
Cold-pressed flaxseed oil is best used as a dressing oil since it has a low smoke point. Which means if you use it as a cooking oil, there are chances of the heat quickly turning healthy nutrients to dangerous chemicals. Use it as a salad dressing or drizzle over prepared food for that extra punch.
Try these for a great culinary experiment. For if we don’t try things out in the kitchen, we’d never know what could take our gastronomic experience a notch higher.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)