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Slick tips for hot oil

When you think of cooking oil, your girlfriend and naked Twister probably come to mind before stir-fry and sautes. But unless you own rubber sheets or steel-belted condoms, you better keep the oil out of the bedroom and in the kitchen.

Oils can still work wonders with the ladies, however, if you know how to cook with them.


* Choose an oil to match the flavor and cooking temperature of your ingredients (see chart, below).

* Cook with an oil that has an appropriate "smoke point" (the temperature at which the chemical bonds of the oil break down and burn). Oil heated past its smoke point usually emits a bluish smoke and makes food taste burnt.

* Keep in mind that cooking oil can have a short shelf life. "At room temperature, a couple of weeks is fine, and in the fridge a couple of months," says Michael Pardus, a chef at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Light, heat and exposure to oxygen all turn oil rancid, so store it in a cool, dark place. Conduct a taste test before adding any opened oil to a dish in progress.

* Finally, while all oils are pure fat, not all fats are created equal. Your daily diet should contain, at most, 10% saturated fat. A mere two tablespoons of coconut oil, ever-present in Thai food, will push you over that limit, but it would take 24 tablespoons of olive oil to hit that mark. Stick with oils high in monounsaturated fats, which are believed to lower blood cholesterol levels, prevent heart disease, and even help you burn some fat of your own.


OIL (1 TBSP)    CANOLA                   OLIVE

TOTAL FAT (G)   14                       14
SAT. FAT        1                        2
POLY            4                        1
MONO            8                        110
SMOKE POINT     High                     Medium
BEST FOODS      Pancakes, steaks         Pastas, salad
FAT FACT        Canola, a word created   In ancient Greece,
                by combining Canada      olive oil was awarded
                and oil, is a modified   to the winners of the
                form of the rapeseed     Panathenaic Games,
                plant. Also used in      and Homer referred
                cosmetics, suntan oil    to it as "liquid gold."
                and pesticides. Yum!     In fact, olives proved
                                         so important to the
                                         Greek economy that
                                         in the 6th century
                                         B.C., the lawmaker
                                         Solon made it a capital
                                         offense to uproot or
                                         destroy an olive tree.

OIL (1 TBSP)    CORN                       VEGETABLE

TOTAL FAT (G)   14                         13
SAT. FAT        2                          2
POLY            8                          8
MONO            3                          3
SMOKE POINT     Medium                     Medium
BEST FOODS      Pancakes, steaks           Pancakes, steaks
FAT FACT        A 56-pound bushel of       Manufacturers can
                corn yields only 1/2       sell a mix of oils under
                pounds of corn oil. The    the label "vegetable"
                remainder of that bushel   to take advantage of
                is transformed into 15     market conditions.
                pounds of animal feed      However, vegetable
                and 17 pounds of carbon    oil is almost always
                dioxide for use in         100% soybean oil.
                carbonating soft drinks.

OIL (1 TBSP)    ALMOND                    SESAME

TOTAL FAT (G)   14                        14
SAT. FAT        1                         2
POLY            2                         6
MONO            10                        5
SMOKE POINT     High                      Medium high
BEST FOODS      Veal, chicken breast      Stir-fries

FAT FACT        Almond oil is prized      Sesame oil comes in
                as massage oil because    two styles. One is light
                it's not greasy and is    in color and flavor with
                a superb moisturizer,     a lower smoke point, good
                (MEN'S FITNESS does not   for salad dressing and
                recommend simultaneous    sauteing. The other is
                cooking and massaging.)   darker and more flavorful,
                                          perfect for Asian dishes.

OIL (1 TBSP)    COCONUT                    PAM (ONE SPRAY)

TOTAL FAT (G)   14                         0
SAT. FAT        12                         0
POLY            2                          0
MONO            8                          0
SMOKE POINT     High                       High
BEST FOODS      Fried cubes of reindeer    Anything cooked in a
                fat dipped in lard         muffin tray or grill
FAT FACT        According to online        While the main
                coconut-oil salespeople,   ingredient in Pam is
                this miracle product       canola oil, it also
                can help fight chronic     includes grain alcohol
                fatigue syndrome,          to improve its clarity,
                diabetes and HIV. You      soybean lecithin to
                could call it snake oil,   prevent sticking, and
                but it's worse for your    propellant, for which
                health than that.          the Federal Drug
                                           Administration has
                                           not yet established a
                                           daily requirement.

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