The Healthiest Frying Oil That Still Makes Food Extra Crispy!
We’re all looking for ways to stay healthy, but some things just taste better deep fried – so what are the healthiest deep frying oils?
There’s no doubt that it’s becoming more and more popular to be health conscious, which is great news. However, from time to time we all like to indulge ourselves, and in most cases having the occasional splurge on something ‘naughty’ helps to keep us on the straight and narrow the rest of the time.
That being said, if you are going to allow yourself a treat, it certainly won’t hurt to look for ways to make it healthier – reduced fat cream, low salty snacks or in this case, healthier ways to deep fry. There are so many different types of oil on the market these days that the choice can become bewildering, though – in this post, I’ll explain what to look for in an oil and what might be some good choices if you’re looking to make your deep fried food healthier.
Stability and Taste
It’s very important when choosing a cooking oil to ensure that it is ‘stable’. They need to be able to be heated to a very high temperature, be non-reactive with oxygen and have a high ‘smoke point’. Oils that are high in saturated fats tend to be the most stable, but for health reasons it’s wise to stick to oils that are saturated and monounsaturated.
Oils with high polyunsaturated fat levels can react with oxygen, and form potentially harmful compounds, particularly when used at high temperature.
Of course, it’s not all about the science – at the end of the day, we’re talking about cooking here, so taste is extremely important. What is key for deep frying is an oil which tastes as neutral as possible, so the food is not tainted by the taste of the oil itself.
Storing Your Oil
All oils can go ‘off’, so it’s important to store them correctly once you buy them. Firstly, keep your purchase quantities low – if you only buy small batches, there’s a better chance that you will use it before the best before date. If possible, keep them in a cool, dark, dry spot such as a pantry or larder.
I wanted to start with vegetable oils in my comparison, because I know I was surprised to find out just how unhealthy they are. I had always been under the impression that they were reasonably healthy and certainly better for you than cooking with animal fats – in fact, I can vividly remember being told that vegetable oil is great for your heart, and if you must fry food then this is what I should be using!
However, when you look into it, it turns out that most vegetable oils are very highly processed (which we know is not healthy in almost any case, not just when it comes to cooking oil). They’re packed with Omega-6 fatty acids and Trans fats and have been linked to serious health conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Many nutritionists are now saying that it’s not just important to keep use of these oils to a minimum, we should be avoiding them altogether. This means that if you have rapeseed, sunflower or canola oil at home, it’s time to have a clear out.
It’s important to read labels. If you find any of these oils on a packaged food that you are about to eat, then it’s best to purchase something else.
I was amazed to find out that animal fats (if chosen carefully) are not as bad for you as you might think! Again, I grew up listening to lard and dripping be absolutely demonized, as I’m sure many others did too.
When choosing an animal fat, what the animal is fed is key to the type of fat it will produce. Probably unsurprisingly, pasture raised, grass fed animals will produce healthier, monounsaturated and saturated fats. You should avoid grain fed animal fat as it tends to be high in polyunsaturated fats, which as we have already established are not good for you.
If you’re unsure about the content of store bought fats, you could always just retain the fat from your own cooking.
I wanted to touch on using olive oil, as it’s well known for its health properties – many people swear by it for use as part of the Mediterranean Diet, which is believed to help reduce heart disease and cancer.
Without question, it’s better to use Extra Virgin Olive oil as it tastes better and is even healthier than more refined olive oils. However, in terms of deep frying where you’re likely to be using higher quantities, this could get pricey quite quickly.
I think everyone has probably heard of coconut oil by now – it’s one of the biggest hot button health foods for decades. Some of the claims being made about it seem outlandish, with certain advocates suggesting that it can cure everything from Alzheimer’s to heart disease, and be used for everything from skincare to tooth whitening.
Although I think it’s probably sensible to take some of the wilder claims with a pinch of salt, there’s very little doubt that coconut oil is a great choice for cooking – it’s 90% saturated fats, which means that it’s extremely stable. At one time, we were all being told to avoid saturated fats like the plague, but again, it’s now been shown that they are essentially harmless.
One of the great benefits of coconut oil is that it is believed to make you feel fuller more quickly, which great news for anyone is looking to lose weight or reduce their portions.
Personally, coconut oil is my own ‘go to’ whether I’m deep or shallow frying food. It’s tastes fantastic and stores well (at lower temperatures, it’s solid, which makes it far less likely to go off). It is also incredibly versatile, and can even be used to replace butter in sandwiches and rolls.