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Know Your Cooking Oils 

Choosing a cooking oil can be confusing – here we examine the merits of some of the most popular varieties

January 13, 2016

Most of us have at least a few bottles of cooking oil in our kitchen, but we may not always know what to do with them. Should you fry a steak in olive oil? Does peanut oil work for pastries? Is there anything you can’t do with canola oil?

If all the options confuse you, don’t worry. For the average home cook, there’s no need to own a wide array of cooking oils, according to Willie Loh, vice president of marketing development for Cargill’s fats and oils specialties business.

“Most people are perfectly fine with a couple basic oils,” he says. “You’ll want an all-purpose oil such as soybean, canola, corn or sunflower oil that you use for standard cooking or dressings. If you do a lot of shallow pan frying, go with something like a peanut oil. And then you’ll want an oil for seasoning, to put some flavor in your food.”

For flavor, extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil or even truffle oil will do the trick, he says. “But you may not want to cook with those oils, because the heat can make the flavor go bad, and it will smoke like crazy.”

Specific uses of oils are very culturally dependent, and often stem from tradition and historic availability.

Here we break down the attributes of some of the most popular cooking oils around the world, as well as Cargill’s role in getting them to your kitchen.



Cooking oils

Olive oil Olive oil is derived from the fruit of the olive tree. Because it’s high in monounsaturated fat, it has a reputation as being healthy. The U.S. allows a qualified health claim on olive oil, indicating that it may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Most people have heard of “extra virgin” olive oil, which is produced from the olive’s first pressing.

A staple in the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is ideal to add flavor to cold dishes and to sprinkle on cooked foods, but can lose its flavor and health benefits when heated up. Regular olive oil tends to be more heat-resistant than the “extra virgin” variety.

Cargill distributes bottled private label olive oil in some European markets. The company also recently acquired theLeonardo® Olive Oil business, a pioneer in establishing the popularity and use of olive oil in India. In North America, Cargill markets olive oil products under the Filippo Berio Culinary Selection® brand (a registered trademark of Societa Per Azioni Lucchese Olli E Vinl) for foodservice.


The next big oil

Right now, coconut oil is all the rage in North America. Touted for its many uses – from cooking to skincare – it’s quickly become one of the most sought-after oils
in the grocery store.
“What we’ve seen in our consumer research is that attitudes are shifting quickly when it comes to oils,” said Lou Anne Koerschner, marketing manager for Cargill fats and oils specialties. “We’re always trying to anticipate the next big trend.”
In many places, oils’ health attributes have become a big driver behind purchase decisions. A 2014 consumer survey conducted by Cargill revealed that U.S. shoppers are paying closer attention to labels and making decisions based on health claims.
To help food manufacturers boost the nutritional benefits of their products, Cargill launched IngreVita™, a blend of high oleic canola oil, fish oil and proprietary antioxidants. The oil delivers long-chain omega-3s (EPA and DHA), essential nutrients that play an important role in heart health and brain development.