What Oil is Best Used for What? Oils for Sauteing, Searing and Salads.

February 25, 2010

As mentioned in MUFAs. PUFAs. (and Loofahs) Understanding Good Fats, there are three types of fat.

Monounsaturated (MUFA)

Polyunsaturated  (PUFA)


In the midst of these three categories of fatty acids, exist a variety of types of oils that can be used in different ways.  Although marketers would have you believe differently, it is not possible to pinpoint every MUFA (monounsaturated fat), or PUFA (polyunsaturated fat)–as good, and every saturated fat, as bad. For the person standing in the oil aisle, this can seem quite overwhelming.

[The chart below, will help you to decipher the basic differences between a Polyunsaturated fat, a Monounsaturated fat and a Saturated fat.  The chemical makeup of a fat, or oil, determines how many “bonds” it has.  The number of bonds a fat has, determines how susceptible it is to heat.    If you are a cook, it is important to know which oils are heat stable. A flax seed oil is a delicious and healthy way to dress a salad, but when heated, it is no longer beneficial to the body, and will actually cause the body harm. The chart also gives examples of the various types of oil, we see on our supermarket shelves, also showing how they can be used, and stored.  Additionally, the chart recommends the best and worst oils, in terms of providing the body with nourishment, and that can be easily assimilated and broken down in the body].

It is not necessary to understand the “where and why” fatty acids have a different number of bonds, except to say, that the less amount of double bonds that the fat is comprised of, the more thick, heat stable, and less vulnerable it is to rancidity.

As mentioned in MUFAs. PUFAs. (and Loofahs). Understanding Good Fats, the best, and easiest way, to use oils, (without having to worry about the role it plays in your health) is to focus on using RAW, fats.  I am sorry, if I sound like a broken record, but it is so important ;).

So… if you are dressing a salad, you will want to use a first-cold pressed, and preferably organic, polyunsaturated, or monounsaturated oil. You will want to avoid, oils that contain, Vegetable oil, Canola oil, Soybean oil, and Peanut oil.  (This is a more complicated topic that I will discuss at a later date.  For now, it is safe to say, that these products are used in most processed foods because they are not of the highest quality, are typically genetically modified, and are cheap to manufacture.  Cheap produce, and products, do not generally make for happy bodies.  Additionally, soybeans and peanuts are hard for the body to digest, on their own Therefore, it is my word of advice, to avoid them at all costs).

Monounsaturated oils are more heat stable than polyunsaturated oils, thus it is “fine” to use them when lightly sautéing, or making a warm sauce.  Remember though, heating anything will deplete the nutrients of the food being sautéed, and high temperatures will disrupt the chemical structure of a monounsaturated oil, making it difficult for the body to process.  So!  Lightly saute foods and avoid making them crispy (Crispy = devoid of nutrients = possible carcinogen).

TIP: This is my favorite sauteing tip… I lightly steam whatever vegetable, I am to be serving in a pot with an inch of vegetable broth.  When the vegetable is just barely tender, and al dente, if you will, I then toss them in their sauteing pan.  They need much less cooking time… sometimes even under 60 seconds… and your guests will never know the difference ;).

Saturated fats, although, given a bad rap, are not inherently bad. Raw coconut oil does not need to be “refined” in order to make it heat stable, therefore, if you are going to be cooking something at a high temperature, and want to avoid the risk of the oil becoming rancid, increasing free radical formation in the body, or becoming carcinogenic, etc. I suggest using a raw coconut oil.

Stay tuned for a discussion about cooking with saturated fats…  Coconut oil vs.  Cow butter…  a question that still stumps me…

What are your favorite oils to use and how do you use them?

5 thoughts on “What Oil is Best Used for What? Oils for Sauteing, Searing and Salads.

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