Every cook needs a reliable partner in the kitchen — a helpmate that can take the heat without panicking.
But be careful. Some bad-boy cooking oil will come along, steal your heart, whisper oily little sweet nothings in your ear — and leave you with a clog in your coronary artery.
Consider Crisco, as exhibit A — one of America’s most popular cooking oils. From the start, Crisco’s seductive flavor slips over the tongue. Stable enough to handle the heat of deep fat frying, it also helps chocolate chip cookies keep their shape, instead of spreading into thin puddles as they do when using pure butter.
It’s just so easy to hook up with a fat like Crisco, winking seductively from every grocery shelf — where it can linger for years without refrigeration.
But if you knew Crisco’s history, you’d freak out.
Get this: Procter & Gamble created Crisco as a way to store fat for soap.
See, the P&G folks’ first line of business was making soap — they make Ivory, the “so pure it floats” soap. Historians say P&G only had lard from hogs to make soap that could compete with the costly, sweet-smelling European soaps of the 1880s made from olive oil.
So the company purchased the Buckeye Cottonseed Oil Company and stumbled upon the process of hydrogenation to stabilize the liquid cottonseed oil into a solid form. Hydrogenation adds hydrogen bonds to the chain of molecules in a fat.
Voila! Crisco was born, but at a cost to the consumer’s heart.
When Crisco debuted in 1911, the ads read, “It’s all vegetable! It’s digestible!”
Ever on the lookout for a sugar daddy, P&G marketed the heck out of Crisco. Alas, it took scientists 70 years to document the health risk posed by such saturated fats. Only then did the food industry change its approach to the fats thing.
Even though the makers of Crisco claim they have changed to “partially-unsaturated” fats, any oil that has changed from a liquid to a solid can damage the body because it is simply not natural.
Naturally saturated fats solid at room temperature like butter, coconut oil and lard have a lower “smoke point” than manufactured saturated fats. Moreover, the hydrogenated saturated fats like Crisco have more oxygen radicals, often accused of increasing cancer risk.
Heat causes a chemical reaction that changes the makeup of the oil.
If oil does not burn easily, it already has such a modified chemical structure it’s not anything the body recognizes at all.
Unfortunately, the healthy polyunsaturated fats, such as hemp and flax oil, don’t hold up when heated. That makes them poor choices for cooking oil.
So what’s a girl to do? You don’t want some wimpy fat that won’t come through when the heat’s on — but you also don’t want to wind up with some insensitive, macho bad-boy fat.
Ever thought about a nice coconut?
Turns out, more natural oils, like coconut oil, can indeed take the heat without taking it out on your heart. Long demonized because it is solid at room temperature, coconut oil not only can perform in a frying pan — it also imparts a great taste and texture to cooked foods. Please note: Coconut oil is also fabulous for the skin.
Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a kind of saturated fatty acid that increases HDL, the healthy type of cholesterol.
This saturated fatty acid can withstand heat, as can olive oil and butter.
These oils offer the best chance for a long-term relationship.
You’ll feel much better about yourself using these more natural oils when cooking because they’re looking out for you.