Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More Questions Answered

Some people that are following this food blog have been contacting me with questions.  I have started answering them in the blog so that we try and help everyone.  This week, we're going to answer several questions in the blog today and in Thursday's.

The first one has to do with cooking oils.  The question was in regard to vegetable oil and canola oil but I'll try and go beyond that and include oils too.

This person asked if you can use canola oil in recipes that ask for vegetable oil.  The answer is "Yes" because canola oil is a vegetable oil.  In a store you may see different brands on the shelf that call themselves any of the following; vegetable oil, canola oil or corn oil.  All three are a vegetable oil and are mostly interchangeable.  However, when you see the word vegetable oil as the type of oil it means that it is a mixture of several different vegetable oils.  It is usually cheaper than straight vegetable oils like canola and corn.  Something to remember as you purchase a cooking oil is the oil's smoke point.  Each oil, and butter too, has a different smoke point and that has an effect on your cooking.

Butter has the lowest smoke point and if used with to high of a heat will burn and cause the food to taste burnt.  One of the oils with a very high smoke point is peanut oil.  It is very good for deep frying or use in a wok.  It also costs a lot more than, say, canola oil which has a high smoke point.

Olive oil can be used for cooking or in salad dressing.  But olive oil also has more flavor in it than other vegetable oils.  That is why it is good in salad dressings.  It also comes in several different forms.  There is just plain olive oil, virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil.  The first two are good for sauteing or frying but not really good for salads.  The extra virgin olive oil is best for salads because it has more flavor but can be used for sauteing.  I just wouldn't use it in anything calling for medium-high heat or greater.  It is not good for dishes  where you don't want the flavor of the EVOO to influence the taste.

Another thing you can do with butter and oils is combine them when you saute.  When you combine butter with canola oil, for example, it gives you the flavor of the butter but with a higher smoke point because of the oil.  I'll use this combination when I am sauteing fish, for example.

If I'm deep frying, I will use canola oil but prefer to use peanut oil or an animal fat. like lard.  Now the lard is not considered healthy and my dietitians discourage it, but it gives a flavor you can't get with vegetable oils.  You could also use Crisco, which is a solid vegetable shortening.

For me, I keep Butter, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Canola Oil and Crisco in my kitchen.  They will cover all my cooking needs including bake goods.

I hope this has been helpful and answers more questions than it creates.

Tomorrow the questions have to do with dicing or chopping onions and working with cucumbers.  Both of these ingredients are required for Friday's recipe of Cucumber Soup.

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