Cooking Oil: Why Do We Use It When Cooking?

Sometimes in life things become so common being used everyday that we don’t always realise what their purpose is in the first place.

Take cooking oil, for example.

Have you ever sat back and asked yourself the question: why do we use cooking oil when cooking?

Cooking oils conduct heat from the base of the pan more evenly and efficiently to the food being cooked. That helps prevent the food sticking and burning to the cooking surface. Cooking oils also enhance the flavor of food.

If you would like to know the finer details, be sure to read on!

In this article I will discuss:

What are cooking oils made from?

I am sure you’ve used cooking oil before.

But do you really know what cooking oils are made from?

Cooking oils are made from any of the following:

  1. Vegetables
  2. Canola seeds
  3. Sunflower seeds
  4. Olives
  5. Avocados
  6. Coconuts
  7. Grape seeds
  8. Peanuts
  9. Pumpkin seeds
  10. Walnuts
  11. Sesame seeds
  12. Flax seeds

 

All of the different oils have their pros and cons and differ in how healthy they are.

Why do we use cooking oil?

There are three main reasons why we use cooking oil.

Heat conduction

The first and foremost reason why we use cooking oil is to aid in heat conduction.

These cooking oils are liquids with a very high boiling point.

Because of this, cooking oils can fill all the little nooks and crannies on the cooking surface.

That way you get maximum surface contact.

This oil is also in direct contact with the bottom surface of the food being cooked.

Cooking oils absorb heat from the pan and conduct it to the surface of the food being cooked.

The oil also won’t boil or evaporate quickly, even when heated.

Since these oils do such a great job of covering both the cooking surface and the bottom surface of the food being cooked, it can conduct heat much more efficiently.

When you don’t use cooking oil, the contact areas between the cooking surface and food would be reduced and that would hinder heat conduction.

Minimise food burning

This section goes hand-in-hand with the section above.

Since cooking oils are responsible for conducting heat away from the cooking surface to the food more efficiently, you have less heat buildup on the cooking surface.

When you don’t use oil, the heat built up will cause the food surface to burn more easily.

Cooking oil also adds to the “slipperiness” of the cooking surface.

The more slippery the surface, the less food will stick to it and get burned.

That’s the principle on which non stick cookware work and why you don’t need oil when you use them. 

Enhance the flavor of food

Cooking oils serve as flavor carriers.

They unlock the flavors of the food and are also responsible for aiding in the Maillard reaction.

The Maillard reaction is the chemical reaction between reducing sugars and amino acids.

This reaction is responsible for the browning of food. That is where you have that tasty browned surface on seared steaks, for example.

Conclusion

Cooking oils have been used for a very long time and are still being used in most kitchens today.

Although oil is not necessary to use with non stick cookware, I highly doubt it will ever be phased out of the cooking process.

The simple reason is that so many people still prefer to use non-coated stainless steel cookware, with the main reason being the higher temperature resistance of pure stainless steel compared to non stick coatings.

So I foresee heaps more steaks to be seared on non-coated pans and for that you will need cooking oil.

Happy cooking!