Sunday, July 03, 2011

#4: Blog about the smoke points of various types of nut oils

Fats, though useful for adding flavour to food and for cooking food since they can be heated much more quickly and to a much higher temperature than water, have gotten a bad rep since saturated and trans fats (mainly found in animal fats such as butter, cheese, egg yolks and meat) are associated with obesity, high cholesterol and other health problems.

But there are plenty of healthy and tasty fats which can be used to cook and flavour your food – such as those from plants (like avocados and olives), seeds (like canola and grapeseed) and nuts.

Not surprisingly, given that fats can be produced from such different sources, different fats are best used for certain things and each will perform best within a certain range of temperature – in other words, some are best for high heat cooking while others have more intense flavours and are best drizzled cold in small quantities.

The smoke point of an oil or fat is the temperature at which it gives off smoke. You don’t want to heat oil beyond its smoke point since the flavour of your food could be wrecked and you’ll end up with a smelly kitchen and possibly even a kitchen fire.

Knowing the smoke points can help you know what to expect from various oils and how best to use them and so, as requested, here are the smoke points of some nut oils (all of which are monounsaturated fats):

Almond Oil has a subtle aroma and flavour, typically used in sautés and stir fries. Smoke Point: 420-430F

Hazelnut Oil is a delicate oil, best for salad dressings, marinades and baked goods. Smoke Point: 430F

Macadamia Nut Oil, a versatile oil that is similar in quality to the finest extra virgin olive oil, can be used in sautés, pan fry sears, deep fries, stir fries, grilling, broiling and baking. Smoke Point: 390F

Peanut Oil, a pale yellow oil with a subtle scent and flavour, is primarily used in Asian cooking and salad dressings. Smoke Point: 440-450F.

Walnut Oil is a medium-yellow oil with a nutty flavour and aroma that’s best for sautés, pan fry sears, deep fries, stir fries, grills and broils. Smoke Point: 400F.

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