Cooking with Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is the premier choice for everything that is cooked, baked, sautéed or fried in the kitchen. It is heat stable to 350°F which makes it perfect for frying, baking and sautéing, and best of all its actually good for you. Today, let’s read something about cooking with coconut oil!
Substituting Coconut Oil for Other Oils and Fats
Why would you want to replace your standard cooking oils with coconut oil? What is it about coconut oil that makes it a better choice as a dietary fat? The extensive list of benefits and reasons to choose coconut oil may surprise you. Here are just a few good reasons to consider coconut oil, according to Dr. Mercola:
- Promotes Heart Health
- Promotes weight loss when and if you need it
- Supports a healthy metabolism
- Provides you with immediate energy
- Helps to keep your skin healthy and youthful looking
- Supports the proper functioning of your thyroid
But why does Dr. Mercola want you to throw out the vegetable oils in your pantry?
Not because they create trans fats when you fry with them, which they do, by the way…
Instead, he says there are much more toxic chemicals created when frying with Omega-6 oils. Something called cyclization, shifts in the double bonds of the fatty acid chains, and there is even “polymerization of the oil” – which doesn’t sound good…
And that’s just the trouble they cause when we use them for frying – they cause trouble even when we don’t fry with them.
The biggest issue Dr. Mercola has with the vegetable oils is one that is becoming more and more well understood – which is that they are so abundant in Omega-6 fatty acids, and so ubiquitous in the diet, that our Omega-6/Omega-3 fatty acid ratios are being disrupted. This is a serious problem because when it happens the Omega-6 fatty acids actually prevent the Omega-3’s that are still in our system from doing their job. The result is higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and many other chronic diseases which seem to be plaguing our modern society.
That might be why Dr. Mercola says:
There is only one oil that is stable enough to resist heat-induced damage, while it also helps you to promote heart heath, maintain normal cholesterol levels and even supports weight loss – coconut oil.
And while he doesn’t “fully recommend frying foods”, he suggests that if you must fry foods, fry them in coconut oil.
As a general rule, you can substitute coconut oil one to one for cooking oils, butter and fats in most recipes. In some cases, you may want to melt the coconut oil to use it in a recipe which calls for a liquid vegetable oil.
To do this, simply place the oil in a small container and set the container in a dish of hot tap water. Coconut oil melts at 78.8°F, so you don’t have to boil water to accomplish melting it. Use this method when making homemade dressings, mayonnaise and other sauces.
Baking, Frying and Sautéing with Coconut Oil
In baking it is easy to use and can either be warmed to a liquid to substitute a vegetable oil, or cut into the dry ingredients just as you would butter or the hydrogenated shortenings of the bad old days. It works flawlessly as a one-toone substitute in recipes calling for the fat to be cut into the dry ingredients. Cut it into pie crust doughs, breads and muffins for perfect light and fluffy baked goods.
I’ve been making a fantastic cranberry fruit nut cake every Thanksgiving for nearly 30 years and when I switched it over to coconut oil some years back not only did no one complain that it was different, they raved that it was better than ever and requested extras to take home with them.
It does the same thing in any fruit recipe from blueberry muffins to raisin scones. Blueberry muffins come out light and fluffy and melt in your mouth delicious, and all it requires is the direct one-to-one substitution of whatever oil or butter is called for in the recipe with coconut oil.
The one-to-one replacement also works for making pastry dough and pie crusts, but you may want to slightly chill the coconut oil first if it is summertime and the oil is very soft. Remember, in pie crust you use cold butter cut into small cubes. So if the coconut oil is soft and liquid, you want to chill it until it’s as hard as cold butter and then put the recipe together and chill the dough again before rolling it out.
Where the one-to-one replacement does not hold true is in recipes which call for a whole cup of oil in a cake or loaf of bread; as some zucchini bread recipes I’ve seen have done. In that case, you’ll want to drastically reduce the amount of oil and replace it with equal parts apple sauce, pear sauce or some other fruit sauce which can provide the moisture you need without the massive amounts of oil.
Coconut oil remains stable at higher temperatures than most unrefined vegetable and seed oils, with a smoke point equal to that of butter, at 350°F:
Yeast leavened breads calling for higher baking temperatures generally do not include fats or oils, containing only flour, salt, yeast and water. When baking yeast leavened breads or sourdoughs which incorporate coconut oil, do not bake them at temperatures higher than 425°F. When roasting vegetables, extend the roasting time and limit the upper temperature to no more than 375°F.
Coconut oil’s high temperature stability also makes it great for use in frying and sautéing. Where you used to use unhealthy vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils, you can use coconut oil and get the benefits of the medium chain fatty acids and a unique flavor as well.
For some, the taste of the coconut oil takes getting used to. Others just love it from the very start. But like anything new, after a while it will become the new normal. It doesn’t happen overnight, and if there are some foods you just prefer to make with tallow or butter, that’s fine. The important thing is to avoid the high Omega-6 and/or highly processed oils.
Keeping Oils Healthy Healthy oils contain important fatty acids and volatile compounds. In order for these oils to retain their high nutrition and health giving properties they should be cold pressed and made from organic ingredients. High heat processing of copra (dried coconut meat) into RBD (Refined, Bleached and Deodorized) coconut oil results in the same loss of vital nutrition and introduction of toxic chemicals as commercially processed canola, cottonseed, soy, corn or other refined vegetable oils.
In fact, the same language is used in the oil producing industry. All refined oils are ‘RBD” oils. They may be great as ingredients in paints, solvents and for other industrial processes, but the delicate and heat sensitive EFAs are gone and the rancid ‘rusted’ fats left behind in these processes are hazardous to your health as a food product.
Deep fry with coconut oil in a deep fryer with a temperature gauge set to keep the oil below 350°F or by using an infrared or candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. Setting your target at about 340°F is a good idea.
You can also fry up lots of great dishes using a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil in a wok, frying pan or skillet. This is a fast and easy way to fry up anything from a batch of finely chopped potatoes and onions for breakfast to an entire stir-fry meal. Just remember to reduce the heat as the pan achieves the desired temperature so that it does not overheat.
Since most frying can be achieved in the 325°F to 345°F range, you can fry with coconut oil safely so long as you keep it in that temperature range.
If you’re used to frying at higher temperatures, you’ll need to learn to adjust your heat downwards and increase the frying times a bit, but not by much.
Deep frying in vegetable oils and shortenings is a direct path to loading your body with harmful chemicals, as Dr. Mercola points out. But that is not the case with coconut oil.
While we certainly don’t eat fried foods every day or even every week, the occasional quick fried tender fillets of fresh caught steelhead or a late summer vegetable tempura are definitely some of our favorite special dishes.
Quick stir fries, pan frying and sautéing are super simple and convenient. For stir-fries, sautés and pan frying scoop one to two tablespoons of coconut oil into the pan and swirl it around over medium heat to get it melted and prevent sticking. Do this after all your ingredients are prepped and ready to go into the pan. Then the entire experience takes a few minutes and you’re ready to eat. When time is at a premium and you want something really fresh and delicious, a quick sauté can be just the ticket.
The coconut oil adds a wonderful flavor for stir-fries, veggies and in all kinds of quick meals. One of our favorites is a coconut oil sautéed vegetable stir fry with green onions, broccoli, carrots, celery and a few mushrooms for a light supper. When it’s just about ready to be taken off the heat, throw in a frozen ice cube or two of vegetable or bone broth for the extra minerals and a little ‘sauce’ and serve in wide shallow bowls with a little sesame oil drizzled on top.
Whenever you fry with coconut oil keep track of that temperature. In a frying pan you will see the oil begin to ‘ripple’ right about 340°F. Right after that it will smoke and be too hot, ruining the oil. To avoid this, as you heat the oil in the pan watch for the rippling shimmering effect and as soon as you see it, add the food to be cooked. That will immediately reduce the temperature in the pan.
Then once it starts to heat up and cook, make sure you reduce the heat under the pan to no more than medium or medium low. Most good cookware retains heat very well, so once you’ve achieved the temperature you want, you can turn the heat way down and maintain that temperature. If you leave the burner on high, the pan will usually scorch and burn. When in doubt, just move the pan to another burner that is not on. That way you eliminate the risk of burning the pan if you’re not quite ready to add your ingredients. Always better to reheat the pan than to burn it.
A great tool for learning just where the ideal temperatures are and what they look and behave like when you are frying is an infrared thermometer. You can “shoot it” at the hot oil from a safe distance without having to stick the end into the hot oil as you would with a candy thermometer. The infrared thermometers are generally accurate enough for the job and make it super easy to track how fast the oil is heating up and when you need to turn down the heat or get the pan off the heat altogether.
And, while most of them are only accurate to within 4°F or so, that’s accurate enough to give you the information you need. You can also learn a lot about the temperature fluctuations when you’re frying between when you put the food in and when it’s ready. You’ll be able to tell when you’re putting in too much food at one time causing it to cool too much.
It takes practice to learn to successfully sauté, stir-fry and produce delicious meals. Just remember to get the pan hot first, keep the heat under control and keep the food moving when you first put it into the hot oil.
The beauty of frying in coconut oil is that when it is done right it is a way to have those tempting foods you love every now and then and it is actually good for you to eat the coconut oil fried foods. Who could ask for more than this in life? It’s hard to beat.
You’ll find plenty of ideas in the recipe section of this website. One of the greatest parts of getting into really using coconut in your cooking and eating is that you get to play around and experiment. Don’t be afraid to try something new that you don’t see explained or written up in a recipe somewhere. Just start with smaller batches of whatever you are attempting for the first time until you get the result you want. That way if it doesn’t taste just how you want it to, you don’t have a lot of it someone has to eat.
Instead small ‘failures’ can be fed to your pets, or chickens if you’re lucky enough to have them. Or, compost your mistakes and make great soil for the garden. There is no such thing as failure if you are learning something or experimenting to perfect a specific recipe. There are the inevitable “less than what you’d hoped for” results, but these can be recycled through the kitchen garden and still feed the soil and the worms even if you can’t eat them because they are all soggy or just didn’t work out.
Experimenting with your favorite recipes with coconut oil substitutions is a great way to improve your diet and your health.
Originally posted 2020-08-05 20:07:48.