Assessing Cooking Oils for Culinary Students

by Rob Sutter
In order to cook any meal, in most cases, oil is going to be necessary. Whether you are looking to fry an order of chicken or sauté a series of vegetables and mushrooms, cooking oil helps to both prepare food and allow the food to gain a better sense of flavor. Of course, with so many different types of oil that can be used for preparing entrees, you may be curious about which of these is best. The simple answer is, "It depends."

For those who are just getting started at culinary colleges, here are just a few types of cooking oil and the reasons why they may - or may not - be the best options for you.

Olive oil - Often viewed as one of the healthiest types of oil for cooking, there are many benefits that can come from this. For one, did you know that extra virgin olive oil, in particular, has a tremendous amount of antioxidants that the body can use, benefiting the immune system overall? What this means is that if you prepare a salad with this item, it will become that much healthier thanks to added vitamins and minerals. One of the main concerns about this product, though, is its low smoke point. While culinary experts can usually work with this product without having the heat strip away its natural properties, those who are just learning may need more experience.

Coconut oil - When it comes to coconut oil, one of the greatest selling points is a saturated fat known as lauric acid. In short, what this substance is able to do is increase HDL - or "good" - cholesterol in the body. As a result, the ratio between HDL and LDL - or "bad" - cholesterol is made better. Before you decide to make this your first choice, though, keep in mind that saturated fat can also draw many people away from the product. Unlike unsaturated fats, there are health concerns that are tied to saturated fats and understandably so. Too much of this product can lead to cardiovascular problems down the road, heart disease being one of the more prominent examples.

Sunflower oil - If you are looking for a tremendous source of vitamin E, in regards to cooking oil, this may be one of the better options. Students at cooking schools in New York, the Institute of Culinary Education being one of the strongest examples, will learn about the importance of vitamin E. This nutrient is essential for protection against various toxins in the air and its antioxidant properties cannot be overlooked. With that said, if you are looking for a heavier product, sunflower oil may not be the first choice to consider. Given the fact that sunflower oil is a lighter alternative, it's important to keep this aspect in mind.

Peanut oil - One of the reasons why peanut oil may be utilized is because it can withstand higher temperatures. For example, if you wanted to prepare fried eggs, it wouldn't be out of the question to use peanut oil to work with greater levels of heat. Along with its monounsaturated fat content, it is a surprisingly healthy product when consumed with care. Of course, given the fact that many people have peanut allergies, budding chefs have to understand their customers especially well if this product is commonly implemented. If you are told that a customer may undergo severe allergic reactions to any product even remotely associated with nuts, it's up to you to adopt alternative cooking measures.

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