Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Butter & Other Oils

This is kind of in response to Denise's comment about Lard. Just a quickie, since I don't have much time today....I'm making gnocchi for dinner for the first time (in an attempt to try a "healthier" pasta...another topic of conversation amongst friends recently!!) and need plenty of time for mistakes!

I was reading up on butter to make sure I had this all straight. The thing about lard is, it has a pretty high smoke point. You can go ahead and heat it up and, unlike butter, it's not going to brown or burn before your veggies are done. Now, there are a lot of other oils out there that have higher smoke points (macadamia nut, for instance), but are also very high in saturated fats.

In my personal experience with lard, you can cook veggies faster in lard, and they remain a beautiful "fresh" texture inside, while being hot and crisp on the outside, rather than getting "butter-logged" and wilted as with butter. I notice this particularly with asparagus...which has those delicate "buds" on the tips. Butter tends to saturate into it, making the buds nearly soggy before the rest of the stem has cooked, whereas lard kind of speed-sears the whole thing super-fast. It tastes more asparagus-y. :) Also fried eggs in lard are SOOO much more Egg-y, and less crispy, overcooked on the bottom-y. I have NO trouble getting them to go over-easy with lard, too, though I do with butter.

SO! Trying to find the best oil for your meal, you should consider a couple of charts.

Actually, Denise is right. The olive oil smoke point is pretty high, and it has a pretty low saturated fat content, as well. It's a good combination for the most part. The only time I hesitate to grab my bottle of EVOO from the cabinet is when taste comes into play. I can always tast that Mediterranean earthy flavor in whatever I cook when I use EVOO. My substitutes so far have been butter (low temps, of course) on things like fish and sauteed carrots (which I like to soften a bit before they're ready to eat), coconut oil (unrefined) for desserts, and my newest experiment, safflower oil. I absolutely ADORE coconut oils for confections. Anything sweet--cakes, cupcakes, scones,'s a DREAM oil. It makes cake crumbs glisten! :) :) :) I'm still not sure about the safflower oil. It seems totally flavorless, and I don't always want a lack of flavor. However, I did use it in the last batch of pancakes I made. I didn't notice any difference in flavor between them and the coconut oil batch.

I know coconut oil gets a bad rap sometimes, but if you use the unrefined stuff, it has a much lower saturated fat content than the refined stuff. Plus, it has a special antimicrobial chemical in it called lauric acid, which is also found in breast milk. Good for you, basically.

Ok, that's my Two Cents So Far. :)

1 comment:

Denise said...

Definitely enjoyed reading you're research on that. I think taking into account what you're going to cook, how long, and what flavor you want to impart are all so important in a product at the end you're happy with. I do understand your specific example with asparagus. I've struggled back and forth with sauteeing it in olive oil or butter - not completely happy with either. I wonder if next time I buy a duck, and render the lard from it, if I can try this out and see what I think of it. I am intrigued! Now to find duck on sale... :)

I, too, use virgin coconut oil. I have tried Barlean's and Garden of Life. Barlean's has a more coconutty flavor, which I like in baked goods, but not so much in everyday cooking. I definitely think the bad rap is from the refined gross stuff they were mass marketing years ago.