Oils I cook with…and why

I love seeing variety in my kitchen {and my wardrobe…. and my dresser πŸ˜‰ } It is just very gratifying to use a variety of ingredients as every product has something unique to offer. The more variety you subject your platter to, the better your chances of getting micro-nutrients into your system. It helps if you research the ingredients before to ensure compatibility of the ingredients you intend using. That will help you plan a balanced diet.

My cooking oils….well, most of them are here

The world we live in today is terrified of fats. I’m not saying we must embrace fats and lovingly bathe our food in it. But come on people….just about ‘anything in excess is bad’. My dad reiterated these words a million times and it seemed to suit just about anything/situation! The human body needs fats. It is a macro-nutrient and an excellent source of energy. Many vitamins are fat-soluble. If I remember correctly, vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat-soluble. Boy, did I pay attention in school! I always assumed that is the reason why doctors always prescribe you to eat your vitamins after a meal, mostly lunch… assuming you dunked down some fats. If your health conditions are such that you need to eradicate fats, you certainly must. But, otherwise there is no need to join the paranoid bandwagon and absolutely eradicate fats. That being said, a healthy adult need not consume over 2-3 teaspoons of oil in a day. You must consider the fact that the human body produces its own fat too. So I suggest you tread cautiously. The key lies in maintaining a balanced omega 3 : omega 6 ratio. I cook with a variety of oils depending on the style of my cooking.

The making of Chilli Gobhi (cauliflower)

Different oils/fats have different compositions. If you read the labels, you’ll see MUFAs, PUFAs, saturated fats, cholesterol etc. As a general rule, it’s best to avoid trans-fats/ hydrogenated fats, limit saturated fats and cholesterol. Cholesterol is produced in the bodies of animals, human beings included. That is why vegetable oils do not contain any cholesterol. But ghee and lard certainly does. Fats have varying nutrients and also react differently when they are heated. All oils have different smoke points. So while extra virgin olive oil is great to drizzle on salads, it’s not as beneficial if you intend using it to deep fry something. So, if I tell you rice bran oil, canola, sunflower oil and ghee have higher smoke points, I wouldn’t suggest you to use it much longer if you have already overheated and smoked it. You see oils tend to lose their integrity and deteriorate once they reach their smoking point. It is a good practice to use fresh oil, than to keep reheating the same used oil. If you do intend to re-use oil, make sure it hasn’t been stored too long as cooking oil tends to oxidize and get saturated.

Initially, I too fell for all the hype around extra virgin olive oil and refused to cook with any other oil for about half a decade, until I finally realized it was all in extravagant vain. I have tried so many oils. Sometimes I buy canola, sunflower and mustard oil too. I have even rendered pork lard myself as it is not sold here in India. I love experimenting in the kitchen. But my kitchen regularly houses the oils listed below. I can do without the last three, but I really wouldn’t savour my culinary escapades without the first three oils on this list.

Sesame Oil

1. Sesame Oil : I absolutely adore the flavour of sesame oil. I always pick up a cold, wood pressed, variety that is free from chemical refining and bleach. These tend to be high in MUFAs and PUFAs, which are good and low in saturated fats. Since it is plant-based, there is no cholesterol in sesame oil. It has a fairly decent smoke point which makes it ideal for regular cooking. It is extremely delicious too. I reach out for my sesame oil more than any of the other bottles.

Ghee or Clarified Butter

2. Ghee : I’m biased here because I just love the taste of ghee. It can dramatically transform some boring dish like plain dosa to a gastronomical fantasy. Ghee contains a lot of saturated fat, which is why it hardens when stored, until heated. Since, it is of animal origin, it contains cholesterol too. But, on the brighter side, it has a very high smoke point which makes it ideal for frying and sweet dishes that tend to heat up a lot due to the presence of sugar. Ghee contains a small amount of lactose. It also has a lot of nutrients and antioxidants. Again, balance and moderation is key πŸ˜‰

Rice Bran Oil

3. Rice Bran Oil : Unlike most of the oils I use, rice bran oil is a refined oil. It has a fairly high smoke point, which makes it great for deep frying. It has no detectable flavour or aroma so it can be used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes/forms of cooking. The unique component in rice bran oil is oryzanol. This is the oil I use for deep frying only.

Coconut oil

4. Coconut Oil : Coconut oil has a very distinct aroma and flavour which is great to use in dishes containing coconut to just amplify the flavour. Think coconut based gravies and chutneys. You can even use it in dishes with very bold, complex flavours that will overpower the coconut taste. I use it in my sambhars, you can’t really tell there is coconut oil in there. I usually pick up an unrefined, unbleached, undeodorized, cold/wood pressed variant. Coconut oil is very high in saturated fats. Hence, the unstabilized ones harden easily. Since it is plant-based, there is no cholesterol in it. It has a fairly decent smoke point and contains lauric acid. It is great for your hair and skin too.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

5. Olive Oil : I just buy a small sized bottle of this because I no longer cook with olive oil. I only use it to drizzle on salads and in Italian dishes. I buy the extra virgin variety. It is very bold and flavourful, very high in MUFAs, contains antioxidants. But, like most unrefined oils, it has a low smoke point. So heating this oil just destroys its nutritional value; and it is an expensive oil.

6. Groundnut Oil : Wood, cold pressed, unrefined peanut oil has a delicious nutty flavour. I use it in regular cooking when I don’t want the dish to reek of sesame as sesame oil has a distinctly bolder flavour. It is high in MUFAs and PUFAs and low in saturated fats with zero cholesterol. It boasts of a fairly decent smoke point too. But if you have a peanut allergy, you will need to avoid this oil all together.

I am not a health expert. This post, like all of my other posts is based on my personal opinion and preference. Please consult a healthcare professional before you decide what is best for you and your family.

Fatty Cooking…err…I mean….Happy Cooking!



  1. Using different oils for your cooking is a brilliant idea it makes a healthy nutritious tasty food wah wah a proper master chef you are


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