Oil is a cook’s best friend. It carries flavour, adds moisture, stops food from sticking, gives colour and texture when cooked and much more.
Whether you’re shallow frying, deep frying, baking, marinating, barbequing, saucing or dressing a salad, oil is almost certain to appear in the recipe.
Every oil is unique, not just in flavour and nutritional value, but cooking properties. Some like it hot, some prefer staying cool.
These are just a few of our favourite oils…
Extra Virgin Olive Oil:
The king of oils, extra virgin olive oil serves many functions in the food world.
An essential part of Mediterranean cuisine, the best olive oils are produced from perfectly ripe, hand-picked olives, pressed carefully without exceeding 27 degrees Celsius.
Extra virgin olive oil is the highest grade of olive oil available, and its delicate flavour, fragrant complexity and unique ability to enhance and carry the flavours of other ingredients across the palette make it an excellent seasoning to many dishes.
Good olive oils can vary greatly in flavour, their aromatic notes ranging from peppery and grassy to floral and fruity. As with wine, the character of an olive oil is affected by climate, geography, topography and the intricacies of the production method.
The flavour of extra virgin olive oil can be adversely affected when heated to high temperatures (due its low smoke point), so many chefs choose not to use it as a cooking agent.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is at its best added to dishes away from the heat: dressing a tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad, seasoning a perfectly cooked steak, drizzled over hand-made pasta or coating grilled salmon.
Peanut oil is to much of Asia what olive oil is to the Mediterranean.
Extracted from peanuts, the oil has a higher smoke point than many other oils, and so can be used for high-temperature frying without having its taste or appearance affected.
The quality of peanut oil can vary greatly, with much of the American market preferring a highly refined product that retains very little of the peanut characteristics.
The traditional Asian method of peanut oil production, however, preserves the distinct peanut aroma and flavour, and these elements are utilised in traditional recipes.
Peanut oil is the perfect choice for stir-fries, curries and Asian rice dishes.
Good quality almond oil, as with peanut oil and other nut oils, retains flavour elements of the nut from which it is extracted.
As a cooking oil, its high smoke point makes it excellent for frying, though it’s as a subtle contributor of flavour in salad dressings, mayonnaise and sauces that almond oil is most commonly used.
Almond oil is also a flavourful addition to many baking recipes, such as pie and tart pastries (here’s an example), moist fruit cakes and baked fruit.
Hazelnut oil shares many of the qualities of almond oil, adding a distinct nut flavour to salad dressings, sauces and baked goods.
While higher in saturated fats than similar oils, hazelnut oil contains no cholesterol, and is high in monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to provide health benefits.
With a low smoke point, hazelnut oil is not generally used for frying, though can be heated with chocolate to create a classic chocolate-hazelnut flavour combination.
Walnut oil is growing in popularity due to its high Omega-3 fatty acid content.
Although it is not suitable for cooking at high temperatures, during which it develops a bitter flavour, it is a versatile addition to many dishes.
As with other nut oils, walnut oil creates a rich, uniquely flavoured salad dressing- it is particularly well paired with strongly-flavoured cheeses (blue, goat’s milk, etc).
Walnut oil is perfect drizzled onto a bowl of soup, tossed through a pasta or mixed into a platter of blanched green vegetables.
Pumpkinseed oil, extracted from roasted, hulled pumpkin seeds, has a distinct nutty flavour that combines well with both sweet and savoury flavours.
Traditional uses of pumpkinseed oil include combining it with cider vinegar to create a salad dressing, marinating cold meats served with bread, flavouring vanilla ice cream (a traditional Austrian dish) and dressing grilled vegetables.
Pumpkinseed oil is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which may lower the risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease.
Buy The Essential Ingredient Pumpkinseed Oil from our Online Store…
Sesame oil is available in two very different styles. Most familiar to Australians is the Asian variety, known as ‘Toasted’ sesame seed oil. Distinctly aromatic, it is a cornerstone of Korean, Chinese and South Indian cuisines.
While its moderately high smoke point does make it appropriate for frying, it is more commonly used as a seasoning, adding a strong flavour to marinades, Asian salads and stir-fries.
Try adding sesame oil to a dumpling filling, mixed with garlic and brushed on eggplant before frying, combined with crabmeat for a Chinese omelette or drizzled over steamed fish fillets.
Far lighter in colour and milder in flavour is the ‘Untoasted’ sesame oil variety. This is more commonly used as a frying oil, also with a high smoke point. It is often used in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines, but is also used throughout Europe.
The Essential Ingredient believes that the best oil produces the best finished dish. You can find the finest quality oils, including all the oils listed above, in our online store and at your nearest Essential Ingredient store.