How To Cook With Olive Oil, Sesame Oil, and Other Oils

It's all about heating the oil.

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Oil is a common kitchen ingredient. It's the basic ingredient that transforms your food into golden brown and delicious after frying. 

However, not everyone wants to use that much oil just to cook fried chicken. That's one of the reasons why the air fryer became so popular! However, despite its popularity, it wasn't as effective as frying to turn food golden brown. That's what oil does well and it's a method that works well even if you're not deep-frying French fries and breaded pork chops. 

However, there is still some question as to whether you can cook with healthier oils, such as olive oil or even sesame oil. Here are a few things you need to know: 

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1 You can cook with olive oil.

The good news is that yes, you can! Frying and searing with olive oil pose no threats to the average home cook. The biggest difference you will have is in taste and price points, where olive oil's strong flavors may come to play in your dishes. 

As for extra virgin olive oil, the flavor of the olives is more pronounced than in olive oil so if you do not mind the stronger olive flavor, the oil is suitable for cooking. 

2 You can cook over high heat but not too hot too often. 

While it's okay to cook with oil over high heat, however, there is a limit to how hot you can heat oils. This is known as the smoke point of the oil. All this means is that when you heat oil to and beyond its smoking point, this is the temperature when the oil will start to degrade and begin smoking. This happens especially when cooking in a wok or at a high temperature such as if you're cooking a steak or searing food.

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After this, it's best to not use this oil again since you're likely to have burnt the oil and anything you cook in it will taste burnt, too. 

3 Oil starts to degrade when it smokes. 

The main issue with oil when it starts to smoke is that it literally creates smoke. If you don't have a range hood, an exhaust fan, or even a window nearby, the room will fill with smoke. Avoid this and temper your heat when cooking. (This is also where a deep-fry thermometer will come in handy.)

Another reason to not heat the oil so much that it smokes is to prevent it from starting to degrade. Oil that smokes starts to lose its natural flavor and its taste changes. It also develops a burnt or even bitter taste which none of us want in our food. Healthwise, it's not good either since oil can break down to release chemicals we don't want in our bodies. 

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Here's a table of smoke points of common cooking oils. This will show you the temperatures of the heat that certain oils can withstand before it smokes so you know not to go beyond it: 

Smoke Points of Oils 

Oil Fahrenheit Celcius
Butter 302ºF 150ºC
Canola Oil 400ºF 204ºC
Corn Oil 450ºF 232ºC
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil 350ºF 177ºC
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 325-375ºF 163-190ºC
Ghee/Clarified Butter 450ºF 232ºC
Light Olive Oil 465ºF 240ºC
Peanut Oil 450ºF 232ºC
Refined Coconut Oil 450ºF 232ºC
Refined Sesame Oil 410ºF 210ºC
Safflower Oil 510ºF 266ºC
Sesame Oil 350ºF 177ºC
Soybean Oil 450ºF 232ºC
Sunflower Oil 450ºF 232ºC
Vegetable Oil 400-450ºF 204-232ºC
Vegetable Shortening 360ºF 182ºC

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