In our second instalment of “Wellness Wednesdays”, Thrive Market and I have partnered to answer two very frequently asked questions: “What are some healthy oils or fats to cook with and how do I know when to use them?”
In this article, I highlight the different healthy oils and fats for cooking that I use most often and provide some information to help you make the most of each ingredient. Each healthy oil listed here is Paleo and Whole30 friendly, making it perfectly suitable whether you’re crushing a round or discovering your Food Freedom.
If you’re new to Thrive Market, it’s an online marketplace that offers thousands of the best-selling organic foods and natural products for 25-50% below traditional retail prices. Not only do they carry a fantastic variety of healthy cooking fats, but they also stock their own Thrive Market Private Label ones, which are high-quality and more affordable than most of the competition.
If you missed our first Wellness Wednesday instalment, you can find the informative article about Paleo and Whole30 Alternative Flours here.
A General Rule of Thumb for Healthy Oils…
When it comes to deciding which healthy oil or fat to cook with, I tend to think about things in the same way that I think about ingredients and flavour combinations. First and foremost, I look to the type of cuisine and try to learn more about the oils or fats that are commonly used in that culture or geographic location.
I also try to think about what would enhance or pair with the flavours of what it is I’m cooking. As with most things in cooking, this comes through trial and error so I encourage you to experiment in the kitchen! Another consideration is the cost of the oil itself. I always try to look for the highest quality at the best possible price, which is one of the reasons I love the Thrive Market Private Label products. Lastly, I try to consider whether or not the oil is suitable to the type of cooking I’m doing.
If you think about it, there’s a reason Greek, Italian, Spanish and other Mediterranean cultures cook with extra-virgin olive oil more than any other type of fat. Olives grow in these climates so it’s a local, available and, oftentimes, sustainable ingredient. And, equally important, certain foods in these cuisines just taste better when paired with certain fats. For example, you could probably use coconut oil to make Ragu Bolognese, but it won’t taste as good if you did.
There are, however, times where I choose to break the unwritten rules for health or budget considerations. For example, I like to make Tostones with coconut oil or avocado oil because I find the flavours to pair well with one another. I often buy these oils in larger sizes so it’s budget-friendly and I prefer them because they’re healthier alternatives to the more traditional canola or refined vegetable oils commonly used to deep-fry plantains in Latin American countries.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is one of my go-to cooking fats. It’s great for homemade salad dressings and vinaigrettes or fresh sauces like salsa verde or chimichurri. I also use it to marinate grilled veggies like these onions. Every now and then, I will use extra-virgin olive oil when cooking foods at lower temperatures. For example, when sautéing seafood or vegetables or if roasting meats below or around 400F. I do this when I want to impart some flavour or colour into a dish.
Perhaps like you, I’ve read some conflicting studies when it comes to extra-virgin olive oil’s smoking point. Whereas some studies indicate instability and deterioration at low heat, others, like this 2007 study, report that it is suitable for cooking, insofar as it is truly extra-virgin and rich in antioxidants. Clearly, I’ll have to do some more research before siding with one conclusion over the other and I encourage you to do the same!
Refined Avocado Oil
Next to extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil is an essential part of my day-to-day cooking. It’s incredibly versatile, neutral in flavor, light in color, and has a high-smoking point, making it suitable for cooking at high temperatures. Use it for everything from stir-fries to pan-seared steaks.
It’s extremely popular with the Paleo and Whole30 crowd because it’s not only a healthy source of fat, but it’s also neutral in flavour and light in colour, making it perfect for homemade mayonnaise.
Do not try to make homemade mayonnaise with extra-virgin olive oil. It is too bitter and will impart an undesirable flavour. Also, I advise against using “light” tasting olive oils because they are highly processed and devoid of nutrition.
Coconut oil is a healthy fat with a high-smoking point, making it suitable for cooking at hot temperatures. The trade off is that it imparts some flavor. Try using it in recipes that have complimentary flavors, such as Thai curries, Asian stir-fries, or anywhere else you want to add coconut flavor. I’m told it’s also a great conditioner for your hair. I wouldn’t know because I’m bald.
Unlike regular clarified butter, which involves skimming dairy solids as they foam on the surface, ghee is made by slowly heating butter to the point at which the dairy solidifies, browns and descends to the bottom of the pot. As a result, it is virtually dairy-free. It’s more intensely flavoured than butter with rich, nutty notes. Use it to make everything from fried eggs, to roasted potatoes, to basting chicken and steaks, to compound “butters”. Since it’s dairy-free, it has a high-smoking point and is suitable for cooking at hot temperatures.
This post is sponsored by Thrive Market. All thoughts and opinions are the author’s alone. Thank you for supporting the brands that support me.
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