Vegetable Oil 101

What are vegetable oils?

Sunflower Oil

Vegetable oils are oils extracted from the seed or grain, usually with a petroleum-based solvent, to obtain a liquid fat for frying, baking, or sautéing. Approximately 42 percent of a seed is oil. Oils can also be expeller pressed, which is a more traditional, mechanical, way of extracting the oils.

How to Buy:
All vegetable oils are plentiful and readily available, both domestic and imported. Buy a size that you will consume in up to three months from purchase.

How to Read the Label:
Look for country of origin, mixture with other oils, unrefined or refined, and the suggested uses.

Corn oil is available both refined and unrefined and has a neutral flavor.
Palm oil (not palm kernel oil) has both monosaturated and saturated fats.
Canola oil is made from rapeseed; and is one of the most popular oils.
Safflower oil is a relative of sunflower oil; unrefined.
Grapeseed oil is an all-purpose oil.
Soybean oil is the most widely produced oil in the world.

How to Use:
Most of these oils are too bland for salad dressings (stick to the more flavorful olive or flax oils for salads). For light to medium heat for sautéing and sauces, use canola, grapeseed, safflower, sunflower, or soybean. For medium-high heat for baking, frying, sautéing, and roasting, use corn, grapeseed, safflower, sunflower, or soybean. For high heat for grilling and deep-frying, use cottonseed, canola, corn, grapeseed, safflower, sunflower, or soybean.

How to Store:
Vegetable oils should be stored in their original cans or glass bottles in cool, dark cupboard; do not put near stoves or other cooking appliances, as oils can spoil and become rancid. Refrigeration is not necessary, but acceptable. Decant from plastic bottles to ceramic or stainless steel containers for freshness.

Health Benefits:
Vegetable oils are 120 calories per tablespoon, contain no cholesterol, and are 100 percent fat.

Smarter Shopping:
Pour in spray bottles designed for oils (otherwise nozzle may clog) to help portion control and limit amount of fat and calories, and for a more even distribution of oil.

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