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The best fat for the job


Fat Guy
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I was taught 5:1 "good" olive oil:vinegar (and the joke about being a spendthrift with the oil and a miser with the vinegar), except for balsamic vinegar, when the ratio should be 3:1. Now you have me wondering if one should vary the ratio according to the oil being used as well. Bacon fat emulsions seem to soak up quite a bit of vinegar before achieving the desirable tanginess for a vinaigrette, for example.

'Course it also depends what's in the salad. And in certain climates, an emulsion with bacon fat isn't a practical proposition in the first place...

When it's a simple green salad (a single variety of lettuce) with a classic vinaigrette, my taste falls in at the "very little vinegar" end of the spectrum, relative to either 1:3 or 1:5. I think people who quote ratios are aiming at scientifically pure emulsions, but in the kitchen I want to eat my food, not paint it.

I suspect that's about right. Getting the balance of flavors right is much more important than the stablest emulsion possible.

BTW, chop some bacon, fry it crisp, remove to drain, wilt some dark greens in the drippings, set the greens aside, then give the drippings a generous shot of vinegar, a little prepared mustard and a generous amount of pepper. Mix it up, scraping the pan until the drippings emulsify and toss everything together with some croutons and blue cheese.

Bachelor cuisine at its best.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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Way back Jeffrey Steingarten did a big french fry investigation and I think he ultimately ruled in favor of horse-kidney fat. Or at least he tried it.

I think that at one time in Belgium horse fat for frites was voted the best.

They did eat a lot of horse mind, and you don't want to waste anything.

Edited by naguere (log)

Martial.2,500 Years ago:

If pale beans bubble for you in a red earthenware pot, you can often decline the dinners of sumptuous hosts.

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Really interesting posts.

Popcorn. DH eats it with butter and salt. I prefer olive oil, salt and pepper. Pure taste preference here.

Our regular salad dressing is how my husband likes it. Olive oil and lemon juice 1:1. I would for myself go to 2:1 or even 3:1, but then we don't use very good quality olive oil. Have to pick your snack brackets.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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... chop some bacon, fry it crisp, remove to drain, wilt some dark greens in the drippings, set the greens aside, then give the drippings a generous shot of vinegar, a little prepared mustard and a generous amount of pepper. Mix it up, scraping the pan until the drippings emulsify and toss everything together with some croutons and blue cheese.

Bachelor cuisine at its best.

Sounds good, and bachelor cuisine is its own art, eh ? I've usually either tossed the spinach raw with the bacon & drippings, or cooked it (the spinach) without bacon, but you're tempting me.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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When it comes to cooking and frying with oil, smoke point is kind of a moot point. Pure olive oil and peanut oil both smoke at 410 while safflower and cottonseed oil smoke at 450. Rapeseed (canola) smokes at 440 approx. all those temperatures are too high for frying anyway. It is taste that is important and heat destroys the flavor complexities in fine olive oil and its too expensive to waste in a fryer or skillet anyway. I use canola oil for most cooking because I generally want a neutral tasting oil and olive oil as a general purpose salad oil. Butter, vegetable margarine and lard all are useful in baking. Blends with butter raise the melt point when that is important. If you want the flavor of butter in your pan fried food, use a blend with peanut or calnola or use clarified butter so it isn't in danger of burning the milk solids.

As for diet purposes, all fat is about equal in terms of calories. It is the saturated fats and the trans fats (hydrogenated fats) that you need to be concerned about if you are worried about cholesterol. Even then new research isn't so upset about health and some saturated fats. No one disputes the bad health issues associated with hydrogenated fats.

edited to correct spelling

Edited by Norm Matthews (log)
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I like potatoes roasted with olive oil and herbs. But if you finish them with a knob of butter, they're even better. And I agree that poultry fat really brings out the best in potatoes.

I stopped roasting in olive oil after reading THIS article by Harold McGee. I get better results with canola oil. Ran a bunch of tests for a restaurant that I did some consulting for, olive oil wasn't the best fat for roasting potatoes. (we had to stick with vegetable oils for this application) In the blind taste tests I ran, olive oil was consistently rated worst in flavor and texture of the potato.

Some of this will come down to preference, of course, but I have to say that I don't entirely agree with McGee's way of testing the oils. Unless you're frying at high temperature, it's unclear to me that the oil will ever reach the temperatures McGee used in his tests. For example, there are plenty of times I've fried an egg in a big-flavored-but-moderately-priced extra virgin olive oil, and it was abundantly clear upon eating the egg that olive oil was used. Similarly, I've had potatoes roasted in oil where the olive oil flavor was present. I've even had fritto misto di pesce with a distinctive flavor that I discovered came from using olive oil as the frying medium rather than some other oil. So I think it very much depends on how you use the oil. I certainly wouldn't use olive oil to stir fry with, and clearly lower temperatures (and larger amounts of oil retained in the finished product) are best for olive oil whereas a high temperature technique with a light smear of oil would probably favor a different fat.

I have a hard time really trusting anyone who says that canola oil is "neutral." To my palate, it has a distinctive "fishy" component that I don't enjoy, and I never use it. For high temperature frying, I prefer grapeseed oil.

--

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When it comes to cooking and frying with oil, smoke point is kind of a moot point. Pure olive oil and peanut oil both smoke at 410 while safflower and cottonseed oil smoke at 450. Rapeseed (canola) smokes at 440 approx. all those temperatures are too high for frying anyway.

Minor point, but there are several recipes in Modernist Cuisine that have you deep fry at extremely high temperatures, so to say that those temps are too high for frying is not quite true (though of course it is rare).

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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When it comes to cooking and frying with oil, smoke point is kind of a moot point. Pure olive oil and peanut oil both smoke at 410 while safflower and cottonseed oil smoke at 450. Rapeseed (canola) smokes at 440 approx. all those temperatures are too high for frying anyway.

It's not a moot point when it comes to sauteing, however. Pan temperatures certainly get up to 400 degrees or more.

--

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I don't know anything about Modernist Cuisine but i can't imagine cooking anything at or above smoke point of common oils. Unless they commonly use exotic oils with unusually high smoke points and the item is very small and spends a very short time in the oil, it will be burnt on the outside by the time it is cooked sufficiently on the inside.

When it comes to sauteing, the bottom of the pan at the burner gets hotter than 400 degrees but the cook is not paying attention to the food if the food and the oil in the pan get that hot. Sometimes you get the pan so hot the oil smokes but then you immediately add the food and the temperature drops, otherwise the food will taste of burnt oil.

I used Canola oil as an example of an oil that was neutral flavored. if you don't like it, use something else. It was just to make a point about other oils that do add flavor.

PS Mario Batali uses a common grade of olive oil for frying. He said he uses olive oil for all cooking. I guess it is a matter of preference, custom and taste and picking the right oil for the right kind of use.

Edited by Norm Matthews (log)
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I'm with others that say criteria/guidelines are all but useless. Fat/oil preferences are intensely personal and dependant upon both the use of the oil and the tastes of the cook/eater.

This said: EVOO for salad dressings, roasting potatoes (I love the flavour it imparts, especially when used with cinnamon), and with balsamic vinegar and bread.

Butter for on bread (margarine is an abomination), in most baking, and to sautee mushrooms. Ghee in all other places.

Sunflower oil for frying and as the basic oil in the cast-iron pans I use.

Bacon fat for hashbrowns and hamburgers.

Chicken fat for biscuits.

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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When it comes to sauteing, the bottom of the pan at the burner gets hotter than 400 degrees but the cook is not paying attention to the food if the food and the oil in the pan get that hot. Sometimes you get the pan so hot the oil smokes but then you immediately add the food and the temperature drops, otherwise the food will taste of burnt oil.

If the temperature of the saute pan drops that significantly when you add food, then you are either crowding the pan or have an insufficiently powerful stove. Yes, the temperature at the interface of the food/oil/pan will be lower in temperature (around 100C due to evaporating liquid from the food), but much of the surface of the pan should remain still quite high in temperature. So if you're cooking in a blazing hot saute pan with extra virgin olive oil, it seems likely that significant amounts of the oil will go above the 160C smoke point. If, on the other hand, you're using soybean oil with a smoke point of 255C or avocado oil with a smoke point of 270C you are not likely to run into this problem.

--

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If the temperature of the saute pan drops that significantly when you add food, then you are either crowding the pan or have an insufficiently powerful stove. Yes, the temperature at the interface of the food/oil/pan will be lower in temperature (around 100C due to evaporating liquid from the food), but much of the surface of the pan should remain still quite high in temperature. So if you're cooking in a blazing hot saute pan with extra virgin olive oil, it seems likely that significant amounts of the oil will go above the 160C smoke point. If, on the other hand, you're using soybean oil with a smoke point of 255C or avocado oil with a smoke point of 270C you are not likely to run into this problem.

That's true. Too much food in a saute and it will not brown properly. But Extra V. olive oil is not the best oil to use for sauteing in any case. I was talking about the difference of smoke points in pure olive oil, peanut oil, refined corn oil, soybean oil, etc, all of which are 410 and safflower oil which is only 40º higher. Not a real significant amount of heat difference. If you want to factor in extremes then there will always be exceptions to the general concepts. Avocado oil, Rice Bran oil and Almond oil are the exotic extremes that will be different and will stand the highest heat before starting to break down.

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Based on the number of times I've set off the smoke alarms when sautéing over high heat, I'd say it's pretty clear that I'm exceeding the smoke point of something in that pan, anyway!

Not directly related to the smoke point per se, but is it possible some of the most volatile components in a fat will vaporize at a lower temperature, producing "smoke" below the "smoke point"?

This would have some (probably minor) effect on the temperature of the pan as well, if it's correct.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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I almost hope we can't generate some criteria and guidelines. If a person prefers butter, eat butter. If a person prefers olive oil, eat olive oil. I really don't want it to come down to someone else telling me which I should prefer. I can figure that one out for myself.

Okay, I'm going to call that one a lack-of-sufficient-sleep induced lapse in attention span, so please ignore it. Either I completely missed this part...

But it got me thinking about the best fats for various purposes, from spreading on bread to frying to garnishing finished dishes.

...or The Big Cheese can edit without the tattle-tale "edited by..." note. :raz:

Seriously though, I'm still not sure how we can determine which fat is best for a given purpose but a range of fats could be suggested as best suited for a specific purpose and, from that point on, it would come down to the specific dish and personal preference.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Given that I'm eating less and less fat, I'd like to make the best fat choices when I do eat it. So, can we generate some criteria and guidelines?

Somehow my eye skipped over this the first time around. This is a boat I've been in for years, so I've given it some thought.

These are some of my general rules of thumb:

1. Use the smallest amount of fat you can get away with to accomplish the cooking task you have before you. Often times, properly preheated pans need a lot less fat than you might think, and many cooking tasks need a lot less fat than you might think.

2. If the cooking task is a high-heat task that requires fat, then use a highly refined oil. Otherwise, don't.

3. Use highly flavored fats more often. If you are going to use a very small amount of fat, then it really doesn't matter as much what kind of fat you use. So why not use something with tons of flavor? This is where the various emphatically-flavored animal fats come into play. If you're roasting three pounds of sliced potatoes coated in a mere tablespoon of fat, why not use duck fat or bacon fat?

4. Use fat strategically to maximize its impact. This largely means adding most of the fat at the end rather than at the beginning. Let's say you're making a spicy tomato sauce with garlic. So far, it's a very low fat sauce because you softened the garlic in a minute amount of fat. If you swirl in a tablespoon of really nice extra virgin olive oil off the heat at the very end, you will get a really nice olive oil presence in the sauce using a much smaller amount of oil than you would have to use if you added it all in the beginning. This is probably also dependent on the kind of fat you are adding. I'm not so sure I'd want to swirl in some rendered animal fat at the end, but a touch of olive oil or butter at the end can make a world of difference.

So these techniques can be combined, of course. You can melt a small amount of duck fat and toss that with several pounds of root vegetables (#1 and #3), roast the vegetables in the oven and then toss them with a small amount of butter and herbs for service (#4).

--

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I did a quick check of my kitchen cabinets, fridge, and freezer, and came up with the fats in use at my house. (I also realized that it's time to clean out my cabinets again. But I digress.)

* butter -- sweet unsalted for general use; Europ style cultured for making ghee, because it has less water in it.

* olive oil -- everyday quality for frying; sprinkling quality for salads, pizza topping, etc.

* peanut oil -- for stirfries

* heavy cream -- usually for coffee or desserts; but then, cream can be the principal fat in cream scones (like this recipe, which is very rich and delicious http://pghtasted.blogspot.com/2008/09/cream-scones-with-chocolate-chunks.html ).

* sesame oil -- for drizzling on some Asian dishes

* coconut oil -- the thick white stuff in the jar, for some Southern Indian dishes

And also

* coconut milk--remember the layer of coconut cream at the top of the can fries the spices in a Thai curry

* mayonnaise, too, but maybe this is just a variation on salad oil, a condiment. Though a former neighbor used to spread mayo on hot dog rolls and grill 'em, and people loved those rolls.

A few weeks ago I was making Thai rotis with a group of people, and we used palm oil for griddling. I don't recommend it. It's neutral-tasting, that's good; it's somewhat indigestible, that's not good. Next time I'm going to try ghee.

Then there's lard. There's lard and there's leaf lard. I'm picking up some leaf lard tomorrow for pie crust, so add that to the list.

I guessing that any "best" criteria and guidelines will be strictly personal. People gravitate to certain fats for certain uses because they like it. That means eating a fair amount of fat in different applications over the years to figure out what you like--not exactly what you're aiming for (less fat). Oh well.

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One more thing about oils for frying and smoke point: Every time an oil is heated, it breaks down somewhat and the smoke point is lowered. How ever high the initial smoke point is, it isn't as high the next time it is reheated. I have noticed a fishy smell with canola oil after it has been used about 3 or 4 times and has who-know-what contaminants in it. By then it needs to be discarded and replaced with fresh oil anyway. Other people must have a better sense of taste than I do because even though I can detect that off-smell in old oil, I can't taste it transferred to food as long as they are not put in oil that has not heated up enough and so absorbs the oil in excess, or unless the oil has been used way too many times. Saturated fats will stand up to multiple uses better than unsaturated fats, FWIW.

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Though I generally prefer more strongly flavored fats, I occasionally like safflower oil when I want to fry something at high temperature and to have a very clean flavor, with little flavor coming from the oil, say for a delicate battered or breaded fish or seafood.

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Twenty years ago I used safflower oil for high temp frying.

Then I began avoiding high temp frying and did more sauteeing at lower temps.

I tried various oils sunflower, canola, corn oil.

About ten years ago I got some avocado oil and an oil blend that worked well.

Now I mostly use grapeseed oil for cooking/frying, often combined with butter.

My butter is homemade.

I use a lot of coconut oil in baked goods - where I would usually use butter.

I have almond oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, hazelnut oil, tea oil(Republic of Tea) and different grades of olive oil for salads as well s for cooking. I have just a tiny bit of macadamia nut oil in a bottle purchased last April. It's very tasty! I use a lot of it making mayonnaise.

I have lard and bacon drippings, duck fat and beef suet in the freezer.

I also have a bottle of mustard oil to be used sparingly.

Oddly enough, with all these fats, I am using less fat in cooking and baking than I was five years ago.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Are you concerned of cooking oils with high Pufa content? I heard saturated fat is more healthy for cooking and best to reserve olive oil for salads or very low temperature uses. I started to use high quality coconut oil due to this. It makes great tasting vegetable curries, o use it together with organic coconut milk or cream.

What do you think? Also the omega 3/6 ratio worries me, its terrible in soybean oil atleast, propably better never to eat that one.

Marrow fat must be quite nutritious (especially wild game marrow bones), but its quite rarely used these days. Hard to find information about it. French seem to like it in borderlaise sauce. I have been using it lately, even with vegetables, seems to give interesting depth of flavor. Perhaps it would be smart to sous vide cook marrow, since its mufa fat and better to heated gently i guess?

I use these fats currently:

organic virgin coconut oil (using it when cooking vegetables, which is for 90% of uses)

duck fat: using it for searing offal, roasting potatoes, sauteing mushrooms or browning onions. I dont cook these so often.

home made tallow: using it randomly

organic avocado oil: using it when searing something at very high heat. Perhaps once or twice a month.

rendered marrow fat: quite rarely since its so precious, its my guilty pleasure. :)

I dont eat pork or chicken so i am not using those fats at all.

I use organic artisan butter rarely. I wish i could use it more often due to its high vitamin content (vitamin k2) and good flavour but i cant for health reasons and slight allergies.

I use EVOO for salads and sometimes when making a herb "paste" filling for fish. I never use industrial oils like rapeseed oils or such, their smell reminds me too much like local fast food restaurants, and i dont like to be thinking of those when making good old home food.

Edited by Jan Virtanen (log)
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While digging in the pantry this morning I came across a bottle of pumpkin seed oil. I don't recall buying it but it was with some stuff I ordered online last January so I'm sure it's still good - still sealed.

I also forgot to list the rice bran oil that I am using for baking and oven-roasting vegetables.

And the flaxseed oil that someone convinced me to buy and which I keep forgetting to use.

Forgot about ghee - I used to buy it but now make my own from homemade butter.

I've got to use up some of these so I don't' have so many choices.

Oh yes! I tossed a bottle containing a few ounces of pecan oil because it was totally rancid. Gak! :wacko:

Got an email from The Nibble and when I got to the web site I noted a reference to the Cooking Oil Glossary.

There are several pages to wade through but there are good descriptions of each oil listed and suggestions of what to do with them. A fairly comprehensive guide for anyone who has questions.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I think its smart to use EVOO instead of canola oil. I am sure the nutrition in EVOO make it more healthy choice when heated.

It has many antioxidants which are protective and not well known. Atleast its been used for along time and its benefits are known.

Canola oil seems to be little too clean of everything and i dont feel like thats a such great idea. Finnish industry push rapeseed oil like crazy but i rather use a good Cretan olive oil instead of those "motor oils".

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