Foundation Ingredients: Oil and Vinegar

Oils and Vinegars

In “Back to Basics: Foundation Ingredients,” writer Kelsey Casselbury plotted out 10 imperative ingredients that every cook should have in his or her pantry and fridge. While olive oil and balsamic vinegar did make the cut, there are myriad additional cooking oils and flavorful vinegars that only add value to a cook’s pantry. Let’s take a look at some of the most common:

Types of Oils

Canola: Boasting a heart-healthy fat profile, canola oil works as an all-purpose neutral oil. It has a medium-high smoke point— meaning, it doesn’t begin to degrade until the heat reaches a medium-high level—but it’s best for baking, oven-cooking or stir-frying, rather than searing, browning or deep-frying.  You can also use in non-cooking applications, such as homemade mayonnaise.

Coconut: Although coconut oil is high in saturated fats, it’s gotten a reputation as being the go-to oil for all things from Paleo diets to healthy hair. Its smoke point is lower and, therefore, is better use for light sautéing, sauces and low-heat baking. Because of its high saturated fat content, it’s best to use in moderation. It features a slightly tropical taste.

Peanut: With its nutty flavor and a medium-high smoke point, peanut oil is ideal for stir-frying. It has a fairly high monounsaturated fat content, making it heart-healthy. However, it will lend a peanut flavor to your foods, so take that into consideration.

Sesame: Although you can use the uniquely flavored sesame oil in stir-fries or low-heat baking, consider keeping it mostly for drizzling and dips, as its smoke point isn’t as high as peanut oil. Sesame oil contains a high antioxidant content, but be sure to keep it refrigerated (unlike most other oils, which can be kept in the pantry).

Vegetable: A blend of multiple refined oils, vegetable oil is, by design, a neutral, mild oil. It has a high smoke point, so it can be used in a variety of cooking applications.

Types of Vinegar

Apple Cider: Inexpensive and tangy, apple cider vinegar adds a hint of sweetness as well as the traditional acidity of vinegar. Sprinkle it in slaws, stews and marinades, particularly with fall dishes such as beef stew or squash.

Rice: Used frequently in Asia and accompanying dishes, rice wine is, as you might expect, made from fermented rice or rice wine. It can range in color from clear to red to black and has a mild, sweet taste. It’s the magic ingredient in sushi rice that gives it the distinctive taste.

Wine: Choose from red or white vinegar. Red wine is more flavorful than white, but they both offer up a complex flavor to salad dressings, steamed vegetables or marinades.

White: This type of vinegar might be used more frequently in cleaning applications, but white vinegar can be used in marinades, as the acid helps break down proteins to tenderize the meat. 

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