Cooking With Fat

Fats and oils are essential for cooking. They flavor and lubricate our food while also conducting heat during the cooking process. While in the past, many fats have received a bad reputation and been avoided, we now know that fast are actually fundamental and fantastic for cooking. However, because there are so many fats to choose from, many people end up cooking with the wrong fats or oils for their dish, or simply improperly using them. When cooking with fats and oils, it’s very important to know at what temperature that specific fat or oil begins to break down, also known as the “smoke point.”

Condiments494Every fat has a smoke point, be it butter, lard, or oil. If you’ve ever seen your pan smoke, typically after it loses that shimmery look, that is a sign that your fat has reached its smoke point. Once this has happened fat begins to lose its healthy properties and can start to take on an unpleasant flavor. Many oils these days will tell you right on the bottle what the smoke point is. The higher the smoke point, the more ways you can cook with the oil, and the higher temperatures you can cook at. Oils with lower smoke points are great for dressings, drizzling, or cooking at lower temperatures.

Here is a list of very common fats and oils and their smoke points:

  • Safflower oil – 510 degrees F
  • Light/ refined olive oil – 490 degrees F
  • Peanut oil – 450 degrees F
  • Clarified butter (ghee) – 450 degrees F
  • Sunflower oil – 440 degrees F
  • Vegetable oil – 400-450 degrees F
  • Canola oil –  400 degrees F
  • Grapeseed oil – 390 degrees F
  • Lard – 370 degrees F
  • Avocado oil – 375-400 degrees F
  • Chicken fat (schmaltz) – 375 degrees F
  • Duck fat – 375 degrees F
  • Vegetable shortening – 360 degrees F
  • Sesame oil – 350 degrees F
  • Butter – 350 degrees F
  • Coconut oil – 350 degrees F
  • Extra-virgin olive oil – 325-375 degrees F

For sautéing, use oil with a medium or lower smoke point, like extra virgin olive oil. When the oil in the pan begins to shimmer, add your food and cook away.

For searing, choose something with a high smoke point like peanut or vegetable oil. Heat it until it is just starting to smoke, then add your meat.

For stir-frying, choose an oil with a really high smoke point, like peanut or safflower oil. The idea it to get a thin layer of smoking-hot oil on the bottom of the wok before adding your ingredients.

8 Tips to Help Yourself Eat Better During the Week

We are busy people and not enough of us make the time to take care of our health. Eating well is much easier when we plan ahead, and even easier when we get other people involved.  When we designate one day for food prep, we allow ourselves more time during the week to rest, relax, and enjoy our pre-prepped food.  I recommend Sunday as the day for cooking and preparation.  This way, when our lives our full of stress and things to do, we have pre-prepped meals to look forward to.

Top tips for eating better during the week:

1. Make a batch of your favorite whole grains 

Whole grains can be very versatile.  I love to cook a big thing of rice or quinoa that’ll last me through the week. For breakfast I personally love putting eggs over rice with avocado and hot sauce, and then for other meals top the rice with vegetables or other forms of protein.  Fried rice is an easy enough recipe that’s always a favorite.  For more information and a list of all whole grains, click here.

2. Designate one day for prepping

As mentioned above, one of the most useful tips I have is to prep ahead of time. On your designated prep day, slice all your veggies, cook your whole grains, and soak your beans.  This saves time and makes eating healthy more realistic.

3.  Cook once, eat twice (or more!)

Prepare enough food while cooking to have leftovers.  Take advantage of the time you have to cook, because it can be hard to guarantee you’ll have time or even want to cook the rest of the week.

4. Keep a food journal

It’s easy to forget the meals we eat.  If your goal is to lose weight or discover what foods work best for your body, I always advise my clients to keep a food journal. Keeping a food journal not only helps us track what we eat eat and our portion sizes, but we can note things we are feeling emotionally or physically when we eat or after we eat. Identifying our emotions or even things we are feeling physically from eating helps us pinpoint food intolerances or allergies, and can even answer questions about other physical ailments.

From my own experience, it wasn’t until I started noting how I felt physically and emotionally after I ate processed foods and sugar that I was able to solve feelings of anxiety and depression. I realized those foods made me physically sick to my stomach, and I was also experiencing high levels of serotonin while eating the food, and suffering from low dopamine levels after the sugar high wore off.  Most of us probably aren’t conscious of these things as we’re eating and going about our lives, but once we stop and think about it, we may discover things we didn’t realize about our bodies.

6. Cook at home

I love going out to eat.  It’s convenient, there are lots of options, and the food tastes pretty good, but why not save some money and calories by cooking yourself?  When we eat out, there’s no way of controlling what exactly goes into our food.  I enjoy cooking because I know exactly where my food comes from, I have control over what I put in my food, and I get to pick what I want to eat.  Aim to eat at least two homemade meals a day, then work toward three meals at home a day.

7. Plan your meals

It’s much easier to eat well during the week if we take some time to plan meals ahead of time.  Make a grocery list and write out what you plan to eat every day. There’s no need to get fancy.  If you like having oatmeal for breakfast every morning and vegetable stir fry for dinner, then go for it!

8. Add in vegetables, nuts, legumes, fruit, and whole grains

By adding in more vegetables, nuts, legumes, fruit, and whole grains to our diet, we can naturally crowd out unhealthier foods and prevent unhealthy food cravings.  When we fill up on foods that nourish our body, we become more satisfied quicker, so we’re less likely to go for the desserts or snacks after we eat.

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