Here’s a weird question. I was watching a bunch of cooking shows, and it dawned on me that I never, ever use canola or vegetable oil. The only oils I use are olive (and I always have at least a half gallon), peanut oil, and sesame oil. They do everything I need 95% of the time, although I have been known to use lard. Obviously I use butter a great deal when necessary.
Why do people use canola and vegetable oil? Is there something they do better than, say peanut oil in a deep fryer? Is it just peanut allergies?
I thought canola was supposed to be the ‘healthier’ alternative to vegetable oil.
Vegetable oil is the white rice of cooking oils.
No, but they are cheaper. I prefer the oils that you do also. It’s getting harder to find large-sized peanut oil that is reasonably priced.
Smoke point and cost mostly I imagine. Peanut oil and, especially, sesame oil are absurdly expensive. Andbutter oand Olive oil cant substitute
I prefer canola for baking; I’m not looking for that olive or peanut taste in my cookies and brownies.
I have heard that olive oil isn’t as healthy once it has been heated. This suddenly seems like something I should have looked up long ago.
Well, not sure about cooking, but you likely wouldn’t want to use olive oil when baking. Although the extra virgin and light olive oils have less flavor, you would want to go with canola or vegetable oil when baking, for example, a chocolate cake.
@Exurban Mom: jinx.
What did Obama say/do to piss off Poland? Saw a yahoo article w/ a broken link, dont know any of the backstory.
I use peanut oil for stirfries because it tolerates high heat — same reason it’s sold for turkey deepfrying. Canola I use for situations where oil flavor should not be foremost and heat tolerance [smoking point] is midrange. Canola has omega-3 fatty acids and is monounsaturated, allegedly better for your health than the omega-6 FAs in “vegetable” oils, which are usually a blend of corn oil and whatever’s cheapest on the commodities market at the time of production. Canola is cheaper than olive oil or sunflower seed oil and nearly as “healthy” as those.
ETA: While I was typing this a fly landed in my wineglass, which I discovered when I took a sip and felt something wiggling on my upper lip. Sometimes I’m a little too close to nature here.
@Exurban Mom: When I lived in Japan, I discovered that most chickens there are fed on fish meal. I baked much less as anything with eggs smelled faintly like a harbor at low tide.
Canola seems pretty cheap, and is fairly taste neutral. However, I find it has a peculiar odor when heated enough, so I prefer corn or sunflower oil for neutral tasting oil.
Jim, Foolish Literalist
@Dork: Referred to a concentration camp in Poland as a “Polish death camp” instead of “German death camp in Poland”
Canola is just the Canadian-branded version of rapeseed oil. I guess they got a bit squeamish when it came to marketing their rape. They could have just used the German word for it, ‘rapsol’.
It is good stuff – Mazola (Unilever) sells a very nice, if a bit pricey, version of it with the omega-3s and so on added to it. Between rapsol and the loads of olive oil we imported, we pretty much never need anything else.
I’ve not figured out what people have against corn oil. But if I recall, vege oil was supposed to be healthier than lard, but then Trans fats replaced saturated fats as the area of concern, so canola oil became the healthier alternative to vege oil as it was low on both saturated fats and Trans fats. And it has a higher smoke point than olive oil (although lower than peanut oil and clarified butter).
As others have said, it’s the baking. Though you can make quite a tasty cake with olive oil if you make it the way the Italians do.
A local bakery makes olive oil cakes — yum!
@Mnemosyne: Looks delicious. I’ll have to see if my mom will lend me a bundt pan.
It’s that big beating organ in your chest, Cole: real butter and lard will turn it into a canned ham.
You can use canola oil, other type (same family) also known as rapeseed oil and used a lot in Indian cooking, as an insecticide. Test the plants first, but insects won’t eat it. I used it on squash plants once and it screwed up the leaves … other plants are ok with it.
I dunno, I don’t like using oil that doubles as an insecticide. Supposedly suffocates them, but well, still.
I’m going to hear the Mustache of Understanding speak tomorrow night. Any suggestions for questions I should ask him?
Snark heavily encouraged.
I use canola when I want less flavoured oils in my mayo. Other than that, I bake with olive- people can’t tell. I use coconut for enhancement of coconut baked or cooked foods. Butter for crusts. Really, I think it’s up to the tastes of the chef. Then again, I have 3 oils on hand, 5 vinegars and 4 flours. and that’s pared down for my new adventures in being broke.
Proper breakfasts don’t involve anything but generic vegetable oil – hash browns, homestyle, whatever, potatoes for breakfast are always better in vegetable oil. That also goes for popcorn shrimp. Although I like using olive oil as a non-stick lubricant for fried eggs on stainless steel, instead of butter.
@Kurt Montandon: heretic! That’s minced bacon territory. Or saved lamb suet. Veggie oil? ew.
Thomas Keller of French Laudry fame calls for canola all the time through his cookbooks because it has a more neutral flavor. And as mentioned above, smoke point is important in some dishes.
@brettvk: As far as I can tell, all the veg oil at my local grocery store is soybean oil. That’s what I have in my pantry right now. I actually use it all the time, #1 for brownies and #2 for pan frying. It’s cheap, it’s neutral and it’s got a good smoke point. For deep frying (which I almost never do) I use peanut oil, and for anything that needs decent flavor I use olive, but veg oil is really a useful utility player.
I seem to use grapeseed oil alot.
Also, has anyone else seen this horseshit? I remember when I was in college at Alabama, Davis was the next big thing. Then he went wingnut seeminly overnight. I am proud to say I convinced my sister, who was waiting tables at the time, to spill food on him on purpose right after he came out against Obamacare. Wattadooch.
Some good reasons to think twice about Canola, and soy oils:
they are extracted using solvents, need to be bleached and deodorized to become palatable, likely generating trans-fats on the way, etc…
@Jim, Foolish Literalist: The Polish Foreign Minister has decided to turn the fake outrage dial to 11. He demanded an apology, which didn’t come, and called the President’s remarks ‘ignorant’. It’s not like he said the Pols were running the death camps.
@Hill Dweller: Weren’t they? Hard to believe there weren’t any local collaborators, even among the Nazi-despised Slavic races.
@brettvk: I suspect they were involved, but the President obviously wasn’t accusing them of doing it during his remarks honoring a Polish hero, and certainly meant no offense.
Their Foreign Minister’s absurd overreaction is likely proof they were involved. He even claimed Poland’s Prime Minister was going to address the President’s remarks Wednesday morning. They’re acting like it’s an international incident.
@Craig: I actually broke down and bought an ittybitty can of Crisco this spring, to keep my cast iron seasoned, but I rarely use anything described as veg oil, liquid or solid. Partly this is because my homeboy Ashcroft forever contaminated the brand name Crisco, and partly because of the psychological trauma I suffered from a disastrous batch of apple fritters when I was 13. I’ve never attempted deep frying since — any oil over 1/8 inch makes me tremble.
@Hill Dweller: I think they’ve been learning from our wingnuts. And they say America doesn’t export anything anymore.
Odie Hugh Manatee
I just finished pulling the driver’s side door off of our Mustang to rebuild the hinges and replace the striker plates. I found the source of my rattling windows; the nylon guides are shot and they’re made out of Unobtanium, like much of the car.
Luckily I have a big chunk of white Delrin that I can machine my own replacements from. The best part is that they should last just about forever; Delrin is the material they use to make the timing chain snubbers on engines. It’s tougher than nylon and very slippery, just what I need for the job. The best part is that the guides are easy to replace, no need to tear the door apart.
The doors are so long that when open all of the way, I swear they go halfway into the parking space next to it.
Long, heavy suckers. I’ll be glad to have them repaired, it will be nice to have tight doors and no more rattling windows.
In the US, if it’s labeled “vegetable oil,” it’s soybean oil. Corn oil, or mixtures containing it, will say so.
Canola oil has slightly more Omega-3 fatty acids than soybean oil, but as some people have hinted, it gets a little funky when heated to the smoke point. When Cook’s Illustrated did a neutral-tasting oil taste test a few years ago, they wound up recommending Crisco’s blend of corn, canola, and soybean oils as the most useful in the most circumstances.
“Peanut oil” is more expensive, but is supposed to have been treated in the same way as the other oils to remove the chemicals that would trigger peanut allergies. I’m not sure if I’d be willing to test that. If you want actual peanut flavor, try Loriva’s Roasted Peanut Oil. It’s only available in smallish (less than pint) bottles, but has a high smoke point and a good nutty flavor.
You need to get
Harold McGee, _On Food and Cooking_
sorry, Amazon link, but it was fast.
He has answers and charts and tables and science and pictures of molecules and explanations.
Home after a long but interesting day with my youngest brother and SIL. Got my stitches out and the doc says I’m healing up nicely on the incision front, but the inner tissues are still healing up so I still get to take it easy for awhile. Then we goofed off in a mall where I got little Japanese chocolate wafers (NOM!) and a strawberry-blueberry crepe. Then we headed eastward with a stop for dinner at the Riverbend Cafe, which is literally in the middle of nowhere but my brother discovered it. WONDERFUL meatballs and I had a flattened chicken that was to die for. Now I’m home and about to zonk out.
@Bnut: Yuck. What a pretentious and self-regarding jerk. The Republican Party is indeed his rightful home.
@taylormattd: I almost exclusively use olive oil when baking breads or pizza.
I forgot Poland, myself.
Quite simply ‘Canola Oil’ is a neutral oil. Like grapeseed oil & peanut oil. It does not obscure or compete with your foods flavors. It makes my popcorn sing like no other! Know your cooking oils – A Handy Chart > http://missvickie.com/howto/spices/oils.html
@Mnemosyne: Yay for Village Bakery!! We must be neighbors(ish)! Have you been to the animal rescue down the block from there? I volunteer there– a lot of fun!
This is where I put my little flag up for grape seed oil which was, bar none, the best cooking secret I learned in France. It’s light, slightly nutty and great with everything. I don’t fry so I don’t know how it does at very high temps, but ohmygoshit’sgood.
ETA: @Yutsano: mmmm meatballs….. It’s Pho for me tonight. Beefy spicy wonderfulness.
We bought a bottle of grapeseed oil at the local H-Mart for frying, specifically because it’s got a much higher smoke point than olive oil. We don’t bake — heck, we barely cook — so those two are plenty for our kitchen purposes.
@bob_is_boring: BBC Radio 4 has a programme called ‘Desert Island Discs’ where famous people are interviewed interspersed with the 8 pieces of music they would take with them if they were stranded on, you guessed it, a desert island. Then at the end of the show, you have to choose just one of the eight to keep. You’re also allowed the Bible (or Koran), Shakespeare and one other title – and mine would definitely be Harold McGee On Food and Cooking, even if I never saw another stove again in my life!
Vegetable oil for baking, olive oil for cooking just about anything else.
How about “How can any one human being be wrong about so many things and remain gainfully employed as a pundit?”
Hass and Mc Cafferty are saying stay out of Syria, neocon Dan Senor wants to light it up.
Color me shocked.
@Ben: “Why the fuck are you so fucking stupid?” Sorry. My snark leaves me when my outrage takes over.
ETA: That’s for Mustache, of course, not you.
People with peanut allergies are not necessarily allergic to peanut oil unless it is cold pressed peanut oil.
Yeah, canola for baking and loukamades.
Dick Beals, original voice of Gumby, Speedy Alka-Seltzer and much, much more (4’7″ and ~70 lb.) dead at 85.
@Ben: What color is the sky on the flat earth?
@Raven: If Dan Senor wants to fight in Syria, I’ll buy his plane ticket. Maybe he and his wife can be a two man militia.
Canola and vegetable oil have a very neutral flavor and can take a high heat. I use canola for stir-fry and popcorn. I never use vegetable oil, mostly I use canola, olive oil, butter and grapeseed oil. Grapeseed is good for really high heat cooking and has a very neutral flavor. I coat the grill with it a lot.
So here’s an encouraging piece from Mark Morford.
When I use vegetable oil instead of peanut oil, I don’t go into anaphylactic shock.
Depends on how subtle you want to be. Maybe try to work in a sly reference to Atrios’ Friedman Unit? For example, maybe something like this: “Some people say* that we can send troops into Syria and clean up that mess in six months. What do you think?”
Note that MoU might be on to this; some years ago MoU was on Colbert’s show, and Stephen tried to bait him with the 6-months business. MoU deftly sidestepped the trap. So I think he is more self-aware than he lets on; he clearly knows he has a good racket going on, and just as clearly, he lacks the moral fiber that would provoke guilt and self-doubt.
*The some-people-say thing is more of a Faux Nooz invention, I think.
In all seriousness ask why, after 60-plus years, the U.S. should or should not consider leaving NATO.
Would sincerely like to experience him tapdancing out of that question.
Ziggy is kicking the shit out of Senor and Carl Bernstein. Bernstein agrees with Romney’s take on Syria.
@Raven: Ziggy? Mika’s Dad?
@Omnes Omnibus: Yup
@Hill Dweller: To be fair, the Polish Government has been pursuing the issue in several countries for several years. I remember when it became an issue in Canada.
Another shout out for grapeseed oil. It gets really hot, and has a mellower flavor than olive oil. I stir fry a lot, and that’s my go to.
Dan Senor is another exhibit A of why I believe in genetic Republicans. There seems to be an endless supply of oily quick talking easy lying warmongering assholes, so it must be in a certain strain of DNA.
Could be the lure of filthy lucre.
Canola oil is listed as an ingredient in most peanut butter. It is worth so much less than peanut oil that it is used to replace the peanut oil extracted from peanut butter for sale.
I recall reading that the “can” in canola was from “Canada”, in an attempt to rebrand lubricant oil from rapeseed to find new markets.
I did see a lot of grapeseed oil at the big Asian market this weekend when looking for a jug of peanut oil for stir-frying.
If you’re lucky enough to have a large Asian grocery nearby (we have one in West Hartford), look there. Also great prices on fish and produce.
The only thing I like about rapeseed is that it’s grown quite a lot where I live. So at this time of year whole swathes of countryside planted with it are solid yellow blocks of cheerful flowers.
I make a lovely lemon-almond cake with olive oil (and a little chopped rosemary from the garden), but other than that I tend to use sesame oil to stir-fry and grapeseed for baking, or popcorn, or sweet potato oven fries.
@presquevu: “The name “canola” was derived from “Canadian oil, low acid” in 1978″
@Exurban Mom: That’s why I use canola oil–when I bake bread I want it to taste like the honey & milk and not like olive oil.
High temperature resistance. I use a wok a lot, and you need to keep seasoning it with oils that don’t smoke at a high temp.
Canola smells like fish to me. I can’t stand it. Grapeseed and olive for top of stove, butter or corn oil for baking. Lard for pastry.
Ask him, in light of the civilian carnage in Iraq, and the thousands of U.S. troops killed and maimed, if he regrets his “suck on this” statement.
That Other Mike
@brettvk: I like soybean oil for seasoning cast iron. It has a high-ish smoke point, and it’s a drying oil, which helps provide a tough sheen. This post here makes the case for using fresh flaxseed oil, but that shit is expensive, and it’s not the only edible drying oil out there, claims to the contrary notwithstanding.
I am dying to make some lavender-lemon cookies, but I haven’t perfected it yet. Lavender gets soapy-tasting really quickly. You have to get it just right: just enough so you can taste it, not so much that you feel like you’re eating a bar of Yardley’s. I wonder if lavender could sub for rosemary in your recipe?
Canola is a cultivar of Rapeseed, but it has as lower erucic acid content than previously existing varieties of Rapeseed. The acid gives a bitter, unpalatable taste to things cooked in it, so standard rapeseed oil is used for industrial purposes. The University of Manitoba plant breeding program worked out the Canola varietal back in the 70’s, and it’s spread all over since then. My family grows it at our farm, but we also occasionally grow standard Rapeseed for the industrial market. So, while saying “Canola Oil is just Rapeseed Oil” is technically correct, there are some important differences in how the products are classed for human consumption.
@That Other Mike: Thanks for the tip — I’ll gladly consign the Crisco to greasing wheelbarrow axles.
OT: later today, The Village is proud to present to you, on NPR (Diane Rehm Show):
@That Other Mike: Read your link. That is one dedicated woman.
I’ve found I feel better keeping away from high Omega-6 seed oils like canola. I’m a coconut oil fan; use it enough that it doesn’t even taste like coconut oil to me.
I switched to macadamia nut oil. It has a much higher burn temperature and is supposed to be better for your heart than olive oil. I get it at Ibsen.com. Price is reasonable.
@Mino: My wife refuses to use canola for this very reason. I perhaps sense something like that at her suggestion but she insists it smells like fish and imparts that flavor to everything it touches.
I have the same problem. We have olive oil (huge cans of it which are cheap here), butter, beef and bacon fat. Don’t do much baking but butter is what gets used, and no frying. Every now and then I buy a “neutral” oil to use but it usually goes rancid by the time I’m half way through the bottle. Will have to get some peanut oil because I’m finally starting to cook more Asian stuff and the olive oil tastes peculiar with fish sauce.
Peanut oil is great for frying, but at least around here, it’s damn expensive. Olive oil is okay for a saute or something like that, but it has a low smoke point so isn’t good for deep frying or high-heat stir-frying. Also, to me, canola oil has a more neutral flavor. Sesame and olive oil can only really be used if you don’t mind the flavor of the oil in the dish.
Great Morford piece. From observing Republican friends and family, change can create a lot of anxiety in them. Ironically, change happens sooner or later no matter how much they resist it. They adamantly refuse to see their cherished worlds no longer exist, obsessive nostalgia for the imaginary wonderful 50’s or some other era, or adjust to present realities.
I use canola oil primarily for making popcorn. Shaking popcorn and oil in a pot over the stove burner is the best way to make popcorn, imo. I don’t care for popcorn poppers and microwave popcorn is totally disgusting.
I keep ghee for pan frying/sautéing.
Great flavor and doesn’t burn like butter. Less fat, too.
all this talk of oils and not one mention of cooking sprays?
most of our pan frying and stir fry takes place in a cast iron skillet with cooking spray.
That Other Mike
@brettvk: Yeah, it’s kind of awe-inspiring and weird at the same time. I mean, I like my cast iron but I can’t imagine spending that much time and effort on it… Not all at once, anyway. Then again, if I ever get a new piece, I always season it at least three times, so maybe I’m just full of shit :)
Another reason to abandon solid/semi-solid fats like Crisco, bacon fat, etc is that you don’t get as even a coating, and that what you do put on gets way too thick. You want many thin and even layers.
If you can’t use the big 3 (olive, peanut, sesame) then you’re most likely doing something bad for you like pastries or deep frying. Though I’m pretty sure it’s a law that you have to use real butter for scrambled eggs, some things just not being worth the compromise.
Paul in KY
@Hill Dweller: There was a reason the Germans placed their death camps in Poland. It had nothing to do with the proximity to Jewish populations.
Things cost money
Excuse me, I mean, “why would anyone ever drive a Nissan instead of buying a Beemer”
I use canola a great deal. Olive and peanut are more expensive, and for deep frying canola works as well as peanut, with a high smoking temperature. If I’m feeling old school I use crisco, but most times canola is the right oil. I don’t use safflower, sunflower, soybean, or other vegetable oils.
I’m sorry; I can only make the jokes I am set up for.
I’ve got a 9 quart cast iron dutch oven (CUE: OMINOUS MUSIC) and for the life of me I cannot get it to season properly. Basically the old seasoning keeps peeling off on the top half of the bowl. I’ve attacked the thing with a wire brush and reseasoned and I just can’t get it right. Anyone know any tips for getting rid of all the old seasoning?
Sometimes you need a flavorless oil. The three you mentioned all impart flavor. Olive oil has too low a smoke point for real frying.
You should try grapeseed oil. It has a very high smoke point and no flavor.
@different-church-lady:Oven cleaner in a plastic bag has a following on the web. I’ve never tried it though.
One issue with olive oil is that the “extra virgin” label ins’t very well controlled or enforced… I think the EU and US have all passed laws in the last couple of years to beef up standards, but you still see lots of reports of adulterated oils in stores. For regular everyday cooking I will use cheap olive oil or canola interchangeably and don’t make enough vinaigrettes to need to stock a high quality oil that I’m sure of the sourcing on since they go bad reasonably quickly.
Oven cleaner to get off the seasoning should work. Then reseasoning with flaxseed oil (food grade version of linseed oil) is allegedly the best… but you have to get something like that at a health food store or Whole Foods and it’s not super cheap.
As several people have pointed out, canola is considered “healthy” because of its relatively high fraction of omega-3 FAs. Also, it has a smaller fraction of saturated FAs than any other common oil (though some varieties of safflower oil are lower yet). I don’t notice any off flavors when I use it: maybe that’s one of those things that only supertasters can detect.
The high unsaturated fraction of canola makes it useful for seasoning cast iron: I use the basic technique described here though I’m not sure why they would suggest that solid shortening is a good choice. A previous poster mentioned flaxseed oil, which would be a better choice than canola. I think I will have to try that.
Uh, it’s way, way, way cheaper? Is it expensive in West Virginia or something?
Some folks (like me) don’t like the taste of olive oil. I also find canola too fishy flavored. Grapeseed oil is the least oily-tasting oil I have ever tasted. I even found grapeseed oil spray for frying. So oil preferences partly depend on what you’re trying to achieve with the oil, in my case transparency.
Olive oil has twice the saturated fat of canola oil, which may be another reason some folks don’t use olive oil.
That Other Mike
As Jay S said, oven cleaner in a plastic bag. It may take a few days, but that will get the nasty gunk off nice and easily. Just wash the cleaner off every night and apply a fresh coat before rebagging. I cleaned a nice skillet down to fresh metal that way. You may need to do a little scrubbing, but not much.
Then, you want to remove any rust, and the best way to do that is to soak it in a solution of water and vinegar for a few hours, and then rinse with just water. The pan should be thoroughly dried in a hot oven before applying your first coat of seasoning.
Your best bet for seasoning is a thin coat of a drying oil like fresh flaxseed oil or soybean oil. Canola also works, but creates a harder, more brittle coating. My preference is soybean oil. You’ll want to do several coats, ideally at least three, before you start cooking in it. The best way is to heat the oven to 500F and when heated place the pan in it, covered in a thin coating of oil, upside down so it doesn’t pool. You should leave it in there for an hour on full heat, and then turn the oven off and allow it to cool. You should see an instant shiny coating – repeat as many times as appropriate, at least three.
Also, the things you cook in it will affect the seasoning – don’t do anything with a lot of sugar in it, or tomatoes, or anything which requires a lot of boiling. There is no surer way to f*ck up new seasoning than the above. You should do lots of things involving frying at first; skillets are very good for this, obviously, and they are very good for making cornbread with a super crunchy crust, especially if you preheat oil in them and pour the batter into that before baking. Dutch ovens are less easily used for that, of course, but there are hundreds of recipes out there which will give you useful tips.
@Aardvark Cheeselog: Soybean oil is a good substitute. It works, it’s a drying oil and it’s cheap…
It’s just about the balance of taste, cost, and smoke point. Sometimes something cheap, neutral tasting, and with a decent smoke point is what you want.
@different-church-lady: if you want an alternative to oven cleaner that is more natural, cook tomatoes/tomato sauce in it, making sure the sauce reaches all the way to the top. works like the bejeezus. caveat: you don’t want to eat the tomatoes afterward.
john, canola oil is flavorless. it also has a high smokepoint so it is good for deep frying.