We talk a lot about the importance of choosing the right whole food fats and healthy oils in our Clean Cuisine book, but I thought I would spotlight the healthiest oils to use when cooking with heat. It is important to realize that not all oils are heat-stable and therefore not good to use in recipes that require heat. If you heat oil that is not heat-stable it creates toxic byproducts (definitely not “clean”!)
For no-heat recipes such as salad dressings, cold bean or grain dishes, cold vegetable dishes, etc. I love to use oils that have a high percentage of essential fats (flax oil, walnut oil and hemp seed oil are my three favorite), but when I cook with heat I am careful to use only heat-stable oils.
Extra-virgin coconut oil is actually the “cleanest” and most heat-stable oil and it is one of my favorite cooking oils to use in my Clean Cuisine recipes (note: butter is also extremely heat-stable, but I wouldn’t exactly consider it a “clean” fat option.)
I know a lot of people think coconut oil should only be used in recipes where you might want a hint of coconut flavor, but if you buy a superior quality extra virgin coconut oil (more on that in a bit) you won’t taste the coconut flavor in your cooking at all. Instead, extra virgin coconut oil imparts an incredibly fresh flavor on your food. Here is a quick video demo showing some of the ways I use coconut oil in the kitchen:
Our Favorite Oils for Clean Cuisine Cooking
Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of buying the absolute best quality coconut oil, not only for health purposes but also for taste. Organic, extra virgin coconut oil is the best and Barlean’s brand is the gold standard. Barlean’s is picked from hand-selected, freshly picked coconuts. If you compare Barlean’s side-by-side any other brand you will immediately taste the difference.
Pressed from the fruit of the coconut palm tree, a superior-quality extra-virgin coconut oil like Balean’s will absolutelyy not make your food reek of some tropical-smelling sunscreen. It is surprising that a high-quality extra-virgin coconut oil has almost no smell when used for cooking. Instead, it delivers a luxurious richness that can compete head to head with butter. In fact, in the vast majority of recipes that call for butter, extra-virgin coconut oil can be used as the perfect Clean Cuisine substitute. You can even bake with it. I love how it can withstand high-heat temperatures without oxidizing. I don’t fry many foods, but when I do I use only extra-virgin coconut oil because it is so heat-stable that it can even withstand the extreme high heat associated with frying without spoiling and without any risk of creating trans-fats.
I know a lot of people are worried about the saturated fat in coconut oil, but it is important to realize the saturated fat in plant-based coconuts is completely different than the saturated fat found in animal foods such as beef and butter. When you dive into the nutritional science and read epidemiological studies you see that the saturated fat found in animal foods such as beef and dairy is absolutely correlated to impaired heart health, whereas the saturated fat from unrefined and unprocessed coconut foods (such as extra-virgin coconut oil) is not harmful. (1) We talk a lot more about the science in chapter 5 of our Clean Cuisine book. But for now, just know that extra virgin coconut oil is a great choice for high heat cooking.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
The acronym EVOO might have been made popular by cooking personality Rachel Ray, but extra-virgin olive oil has been a mainstay of the Mediterranean diet and is one of the oldest known culinary oils. Extra-virgin olive oil contains predominately monounsaturated fat. It also contains antioxidants and flavonoids that help prevent bad LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and becoming particularly dangerous to your blood vessels. There are plenty of things I love about a great EVOO, however, this oil cannot be heated to extremely high temperatures or it will spoil, so be careful to cook on low heat, such as low-heat sautéing. You can roast vegetables with extra-virgin olive oil and even bake with it, but again, keep the heat low. By the way, a good test for any oil is that if it smokes, the heat is too high.
Finding extra-virgin olive oil is not as easy as you might think. Consumer Reports even did a feature on extra-virgin olive oils in September 2012 and reported that their taste testers decided many olive oils labeled extra-virgin simply don’t make the grade. We were happy to discover the one that we use, Costco’s Kirkland brand, was rated “very good.” We consider this one the best quality and taste for an incredible value. Consumer Reports also rated McEvoy Ranch, Trader Joe’s California Estate, Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value 100% California Unfiltered, and Lucini Premium highly.
Macadamia Nut Oil
Part of the popularity of macadamia nut oil stems from the fact that it is richer than any other oil in monounsaturated fat, even richer than olive oil! This nutritious oil finds favor with chefs all over the world for its versatility and practicality of use. With a rich, nutty flavor it’s absolutely amazing drizzled on salads, beans, and whole grains. Note too that macadamia nut oil has a high smoke point of around 425ºF, which is higher than that of olive oil. Because it has such a high smoke point, macadamia nut oil does not break down into toxic by-products that are harmful to your heart and overall health. All in all, it’s a very practical addition to your Clean Cuisine cabinet, especially for occasions when olive oil can’t be used due its lower smoke point.
Learn More about the Special Offer from Barlean’s at: Barleans.com/CleanCuisine
1. N.I. Lipoeto, Z. Agus, F. Oenzil, et al., “Dietary Intake and the Risk fo Coronary Heart Disease among the Coconut-Consuming Minangkabua in West Sumatra, Indonesia,” Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 13, no.4 (2004): 377-84