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Stir Frying-Which oil


dennis77
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It comes down to three factors: smoke point, taste and cost. Since stir-frying is done over high heat, you want an oil with a high smoke point. So, if your vegetable oil is made from a high smoke point oil, no problem. Taste is subjective. I like the flavour that Lion & Globe adds to some dishes and I like the French peanut oil's neutral flavour in other situations. On the other hand, canola oil has a slightly fishy odour and taste that I don't particularly care for and that isn't always masked in simple dishes like egg-fried rice. Similarly, the flavour of olive oil strikes me as exotic in Chinese cooking. Your milage may vary, of course. The cost factor is probably the least important. Still, I find peanut offers the best combination of high smoke point, flavour (or lack thereof) and affordability.

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the great Barbara Tropp always used corn oil. First into the wok, then using different blends of aromatics(serrano chile, cilantro, garlic, ginger, orange peel, ect.) to flavor the oil before adding veges or chicken or whatever.

Gorganzola, Provolone, Don't even get me started on this microphone.---MCA Beastie Boys

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It comes down to three factors: smoke point, taste and cost.

Three factors, health considerations aside. And the health considerations are not limited to concerns about cholesterol. A few years ago, I received the following in a mailing from a now-defunct newsgroup. I post this for information and discussion purposes only, not because I have an opinion on the subject, and I hope it doesn't come across as alarmist. The author of the first two paragraphs is Dr. Mel C. Siff of Denver, CO. The abstracts come from the articles reporting the results of the studies.

The possible relationship between wok-style cooking and cancer currently is a major focus of research in China and Taiwan. Interestingly, the cancer risk appears to be somewhat diminished if peanut oil is used.

Though general consensus has not been reached on this topic, there is considerable research which indicates that cooking with fats and oils at high temperatures creates known carcinogenic compounds and plenty of free radicals (associated with serious diseases such as cancer and heart disease). It is also well known that exposure of oils to air also produces free radicals, so that oils and oily nuts should be kept refrigerated.

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Zhong L, Goldberg MS, Parent ME, Hanley JA Risk of developing lung cancer in relation to exposure to fumes from Chinese-style cooking. Scand J Work Environ Health 1999 Aug;25(4):309-16

In an evaluation of the association between exposure to indoor air pollution from Chinese-style cooking and the risk of lung cancer, epidemiologic and experimental studies were reviewed. Several studies showed consistent positive associations between the risk of lung cancer and a variety of indices of exposure to indoor air pollution arising from Chinese-style cooking. Other studies showed that volatile emissions from oils heated in woks are mutagenic in several in vitro short-term test systems. Several toxic agents, including some accepted or suspected carcinogens, have been detected in the emissions of the heated cooking oils. While experimental data support the epidemiologic data, it may be premature to conclude that the association is causal. However, simple precautions can be taken to reduce the risk in the event that exposure to indoor air pollution arising from Chinese-style cooking is indeed a cause of lung cancer.

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Shields PG, Xu GX, et al Mutagens from heated Chinese and U.S. cooking oils. J Natl Cancer Inst 1995 Jun 7;87(11):836-41

These studies, combined with experimental and epidemiologic findings, suggest that high-temperature wok cooking with unrefined Chinese rapeseed oil may increase lung cancer risk. This study indicates methods that may reduce that risk. IMPLICATIONS: The common use of wok cooking in China might be an important but controllable risk factor in the etiology of lung cancer. In the United States, where cooking oils are usually refined for purity, additional studies should be conducted to further quantify the potential risks of such methods of cooking.

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Chiang TA, Wu PF, et al Mutagenicity and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon content of fumes from heated cooking oils produced in Taiwan. Mutat Res 1997 Nov 28;381(2):157-61

These results provide experimental evidence and support the findings of epidemiologic observations, in which women exposed to the emitted fumes of cooking oils are at increased risk of contracting lung cancer.

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I happen to be partial to the blended oils that are carried by asian groceries. Peanut oil is good for deep frying but I'm not crazy about it for regular stirfrying, it has a very strong taste.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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If you are really stir frying in the authentic Chinese way (like Barbara Tropp), your wok is blasting hot before you even add the oil so you need high smoke point oil, as others have mentioned. Peanut oil and EXTRA LIGHT Olive Oil (NOT Extra Virgin) are probably best for this, because they do not break down into potentially unhealthy trans fats at high temperatures. Extra Light Olive Oil is designed for deep frying, unlike Extra Virgin. Corn oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, and most others do break down at high temperatures.

Before I learned this I used Extra Virgin. When cooking at such high temperatures, it lost all its flavor nuances. While this meant that it did not clash with the Chinese flavors, it also meant I was throwing away a lot of the EV flavor I had paid so dearly for. (Extra Light has little of these flavors to begin with, and little or none after stir frying.)

Note that there are two different oils, called grapeseed and rapeseed. Rapeseed oil is actually canola oil; the name was changed b/c it would be hard to sell any oil with word rape in its name. As far as the name origin goes, canola=oil of Canada the same way that Mazola=oil of maize.

Grapeseed oil is another thing entirely, which I don’t know too much about. I see Ming Tsai cook with it in his shows. This suggests that it has a high smoke point and doesn’t impart its own flavor to the food, but that price and health considerations might be secondary.

Vegetable oil is usually a blend of soybean oil and cottonseed oil, both of which break down at high temperatures in the same bad way. Cottonseed oil has some extra health risk, since cotton crops are allowed to have more pesticides, etc. than food crops, like soybeans or corn.

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I've seen Soybean oil used for deep frying, I don't think it breaks down at high temperatures. And besides, what exactly are you classifying as a "high" temperature? Most home ranges, even the "professional" style home ranges will never get a burner or wok hot enough to break down soybean oil or a asian oil blend.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Grapeseed oil.

Canola for deep-frying.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

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Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Upthread, carswell quoted some studies suggesting a relationship between stir-frying and lung cancer. I wouldn't worry about this too much.

Not that it's impossible, but both China and Taiwan have severe air pollution problems arising from rapid industrialization, and I don't know how you factor this out of the equation.

Most members/lurkers at this site have never experienced anything like the pollution in these places. This is stare-at-the-sun-without-squinting level of pollution. Imagine having the water turn black EVERY TIME YOU WASH YOUR HANDS. Imagine every pay phone coated with a layer of black dust from the air, enough so that you never want your mouth close to the mouthpiece of the phone. Imagine finding dirt under all your fingernails, just because you went outside.

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Most home ranges, even the "professional" style home ranges will never get a burner or wok hot enough to break down soybean oil or a asian oil blend.

I had oil (Canola, I think) burst into flames once when I poured it into a too-hot pan, and this was on a crappy electric range, so no open flames to ignite the vapor.

I suppose I could repeat that experiment with soy oil, but I'm not anxious to try. BTW, when the oil caught fire, I didn't panic, and just let it burn itself out; there was only an ounce or so anyway. I knew that water would make things worse, and didn't have a lid or baking soda handy.

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Upthread, carswell quoted some studies suggesting a relationship between stir-frying and lung cancer. I wouldn't worry about this too much.

Not that it's impossible, but both China and Taiwan have severe air pollution problems arising from rapid industrialization, and I don't know how you factor this out of the equation.

As far as I know, the articles can't be downloaded without having a subscription to Medline or some such, so I've not read anything except the abstracts. If I find the time, maybe I'll drop by one of the local medical libraries some day. However, I think we can safely assume that the studies take into account factors like air pollution and cigarette smoking.

You're probably right that, for most of us, it's not something to worry about. On the other hand, as one of the abstracts states, it's easy to take precautions. I find myself turning on the hood fan and opening the kitchen window more often these days, especially when stir-frying and doing any cooking-related activity — roasting, searing or burning splattered fat off my stove's electric burners, for example — that generates fat-related vapours. Even if the health benefits are nil, it makes for a cleaner kitchen.

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I would like to know what type of oil does everyone use when they are stir frying using a wok.

Another vote for grapeseed oil for its high smoke point and neutral flavor. Canola has a subtle flavor that I don't like.

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grapeseed oil for its high smokepoint and lack of discernable flavor, and when price isn't a factor, tea oil. i like light-viscosity oil for stir-frying. for that reason, i don't like olive oils or even avocado oil, which has a high smokepoint, but too much weight for asian dishes, i feel.

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