Simone Gabbay, RNCP
What oil can I use in salad dressings?'#157; asked a young mother as we discussed her family's diet. 'Is it true that some oils are toxic?'#157; This mom's concerns were not unjustified: many popular oils are unfit for human consumption.
"What oil can I use in salad dressings?" asked a young mother as we discussed her family's diet. "Is it true that some oils are toxic?" This mom's concerns were not unjustified: many popular oils are unfit for human consumption.
Many of the clean-looking processed vegetable oils on supermarket shelves are solvent extracted, highly refined, bleached, and deodorized. These oils are chemically unstable - they are polyunsaturated
Cool Salad Oils
Excellent alternatives to commercially processed oils are available in health food stores. Mechanically extracted, unrefined vegetable oils contribute vitamin E and essential fatty acids (EFAs) to the diet. EFAs play an important role in many metabolic processes and are often deficient in the modern diet.
Among the best sources of EFAs are the oils from the seeds of flax, safflower, sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame. These can be used in salad dressings, added to foods after cooking, or taken therapeutically as a supplement. They should be kept refrigerated and should be used within two months of opening. Unrefined flax, safflower, and sunflower seed oils have a low smoke point (the temperature at which the oil begins to burn) and should never be used in cooking, baking, or frying. Sesame seed oil has a higher smoke point and may be used to saut?nd stir-fry foods.
Heating it Up
Unrefined olive oil (look for "extra virgin" on the label) makes a great base for salad dressings and is also safe for use in cooking. Chemically classified as monounsaturated
Another monounsaturated oil safe for heating is macadamia nut oil. Its full-flavoured, nutty taste and excellent coating properties make it a gourmet cook's best-kept secret. Macadamia nut oil is ideal for saut?g or stir-frying. Avocado oil also has a high smoke point, as does almond oil, which is excellent for baking.
Exotic Tropical Oils
Saturated fats and oils are chemically stable, which is why butter is a safe cooking fat. The tropical oils of palm, palm kernel, and coconut, available in health food stores, are also high in stable saturates and are excellent cooking oils.
Even the most stable of oils should never be used to fry or deep-fry foods. At extreme temperatures, oils will smoke and burn, and toxic compounds will form in foods. If you cook with oil, saut?g and stir-frying are gentler, safer methods.