Vegetable Oils – Interesting Facts

There is a wide selection of vegetable oils that are extracted from different kinds of seeds, nuts and plants. They generally come in liquid form and are used for cooking with and also for refining a number of dishes. The world of vegetable oils is a large one with many different varieties, flavours and uses. While sunflower oil, olive oil and rapeseed oil are widely used, more and more oils are being introduced to the market – each with a different culinary purpose. Varieties such as chia seed oil, coconut oil and pine nut oil are becoming increasingly popular.

Food Facts Food Facts

Vegetable Oils

Season

available year-round

Storage

store in a dry, dark place

Shelf life

up to 1 year, depending on variety

Vegetable Oils - History and Origin

Vegetable oils have a long tradition in culinary history – oils have supposedly been produced since we began cooking with fire and earthenware pottery. The first oils were probably animal fats, such as fish oil and pork fat. The earliest technologies of oil extraction were invented by the Romans; oil mills and oil presses were used for obtaining the delicious and beloved olive oil. The Romans brought the savoury cooking oil to all regions of the Roman Empire, including Germany where they began to produce oil from other fruits.

Vegetable Oils - Cold-Pressed or Refined?

There are approximately 40 different oil crops from which oil can be extracted, and most are either refined or cold-pressed. Refined oil is pressed from seeds, nuts or plants that have previously been heated. This method allows for a higher yield, but the taste suffers and some of the nutritious ingredients may be lost. Cold-pressed oil on the other hand is obtained from seeds or plants that are not heated. This method retains the original taste of the oil and its nutritious ingredients but has a lower yield and is therefore more expensive than refined oil.

The choice between the two methods comes down to the intended use of the oil: refined oil has a higher smoke point than cold-pressed oil. The smoke point of an oil denotes the temperature at which oil begins to smoke when heated. At this particular temperature, the oil may contain harmful substances. It is therefore advised to choose a heat-resistant, refined oil for frying and baking at high temperatures. For example, cold-pressed sunflower oil has a smoke point of 107°C, and when refined, sunflower oil has a smoke point of 225°C. Another option is to use HO (High Oleic) sunflower oil or HOLL (High Oleic and Low Linolenic) rapeseed oil, which is cultivated without genetic engineering and retains its fat structure during high heat cooking methods like deep frying. To refine the taste of a meal, cold-pressed oil is the best option.

Vegetable Oils – At a Glance

The approximately 40 different varieties of oil crops that are processed today provide a great selection with differing tastes and ingredients. Here is a small overview of some popular cooking oils:

 

·         Olive oil: Similar to olives, olive oil has a slightly bitter taste. Cold-pressed, virgin olive oil contains more secondary plant materials, such as polyphenols and monounsaturated fats, than the hot-pressed oil. Make sure to purchase olive oil without preservatives. It is delicious simply drizzled on top of salads, some slices of mozzarella or even bread. It is very simple to infuse your own chilli or truffle oil – both ingredients lend a unique flavour to olive oil.

·         Rapeseed oil: The cold-pressed oil comes from the rapeseed plant and contains a high proportion of both mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids. It has a nutty and slightly woody flavour and goes well with salads. Refined oil, such as HOLL rapeseed oil, has quite a neutral taste and lends hardly any flavour to fried or roasted dishes.

·         Linseed oil: This oil is made from linseeds and has a high content of vitamin E and monounsaturated fats. It doesn’t keep for a long period of time and must be used up quickly once opened. It is a tasty addition to potatoes, quark and fish.

·         Sesame oil: Made using sesame seeds, this oil is most popular in Asian cuisine and lends dishes its characteristic sesame flavour. It is often used for soups, rice and vegetable dishes. It contains vitamin E and has a high content of polyunsaturated fats. A small FOOBY insider’s tip for burger fans: enhance your burger with just a few drops of sesame oil together with a few splashes of soy sauce.

·         Pumpkin seed oil: For just one litre of pumpkin seed oil, the seeds of 30 pumpkins are required, which is reflected in its price. The high price point means cooking with pumpkin seed oil is a waste – rather it should be used to lend a hint of pumpkin flavour to salad dressings, vegetables, purees and pasta dishes. Pumpkin seed oil is rich in monounsaturated fat and vitamin E.  

Coconut oil: The oil made from the meat of the coconut contains saturated fatty acids. Its light coconut flavour is well suited to Asian dishes and desserts. It is stored in solid form and transforms into a liquid when heated.

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