Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cooking Oils " 101 "


If you frequently cook in the kitchen then you are probably familiar with using oil. Oil is used as an ingredient and is also used for frying. One of the most common cooking oils is vegetable oil, but do you really know what that is? Do you know what oils are best used for frying or the proper way to store it? I have listed a few of the different types of common cooking oils and the proper use of each of them. You may find this to be important information as you continue cooking and baking for your family.

Vegetable Oil

Vegetable Oil is probably the most commonly used of all the oils. It can be found frequently for use in recipes and can also be used for frying. Vegetable oil is actually a blend of several oils, such as corn, soybean, palm and sunflower.

Canola Oil

Canola oil has been said to be one of the most healthy of the cooking oils because of its low saturated fat content and high mono unsaturated fat. It is commonly used in frying, but only with medium frying temperatures, about 450 degrees F.

Corn Oil

Corn oil is relatively low on both saturated and mono unsaturated fats. It is popular in margarine and used in both frying and baking. It should only be used when frying on medium temperatures.

Sunflower Oil

Sunflower Oil is low in saturated fat and high in Vitamin E. Many food manufacturers are recognizing the health benefits of sunflower oil and are using it as the preferred oil in such snack foods as potato chips. It can be used in the home to fry, cook, and for use in salad dressings.

Olive Oil

There are different varieties of olive oil: extra virgin, virgin, extra light, and refined. Extra virgin olive oil is the most common of those used. There are many uses for all varieties, such as stir-frying, cooking, sautéing and as an ingredient in recipes. Olive Oil is also frequently used in salad oils. It is the most healthy of all the oils as it is high in mono unsaturated fat which has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Many people use it daily in their meals, drizzling it over a wide variety of foods.

Peanut Oil

Peanut oil is a great oil to use when frying in high temperatures. It is a common oil during the Thanksgiving holiday as many people are using turkey fryers to fry their turkeys, but can be used anytime when frying.
Storing Oil

All oils remain liquid when kept at room temperature so it is best to store oil in a dark, dry place, such as your pantry. Oils that are high in monounsaturated fat will keep up to a year, while refined olive oil, having the highest of monounsaturated fat, can last a few years. Extra virgin and virgin olive oils will keep about a year after opened. The shelf life of most other oils after opened is usually six-eight months.
Another important fact to note is how to properly discard used cooking oil. It should never be poured down your kitchen sink. Oil can congeal and block pipes. The best way to discard it is to pour it into a leak-proof container and discard it with the rest of your garbage.
Now that you have learned about the different oils, I have a recipe that you may want to try. This is a dish that my family absolutely loves. It is called Fried Cauliflower or in Italian it is Cavolfiore Fritto. My Mom would make this dish for holidays, mostly because it takes some time to prepare and was always a treat. But everyone loves it so that she started to use this recipe at our dinner meals as well as holiday time. In Italian families frying foods, especially vegetables is part of our culture. I remember when I was young, I would help my Mom prepare to fry the cauliflower. My job was to “bread” the cauliflower with the egg and then the breadcrumbs. Then my Mom would take over the frying. Now, I do the breading/ frying and my Mom and I have taught my nieces how to make this very crispy and delicious cauliflower winter vegetable. You can also use the same method to fry artichoke hearts, asparagus, eggplant and also another Italian vegetable called cardoons (like a long celery but tastes like an artichoke.) I hope that this gives you a better understanding about oils, and you enjoy our Fried Cauliflower recipe.

    Fried Cauliflower                                                                                                      Ingredients:

1 head of a fresh cauliflower
1 1/2 cups of plain or seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons of flour
2 eggs, beaten ( Use more if needed )
Vegetable Oil for frying
salt and pepper to taste


Wash and cut the cauliflower into florets. Then cook in boiling water for about 5-6 minutes, until they are fork tender. Do not cook too long as they will be mushy. Drain them and let them cool. In a shallow dish, combine the seasoned or plain breadcrumbs mixed with some flour and mix well to combine. Set aside. In another shallow dish, beat the eggs and set aside.
Dip a few pieces of cauliflower in the eggs and allow some of the egg to drip off. Coat in the breadcrumb mixture. Place the breaded cauliflower on a sheet pan. Repeat this process with the remaining pieces.

Now fry the cauliflower in 1/2" of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, fry until golden brown, which should only take a few minutes or so. Place the fried cauliflower on a few paper towels to drain off excess oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving plate and watch how fast your family will eat them.


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