Choosing the right cooking oil is not as easy as it sounds, says Domenico Crolla of Glasgow’s award-winning Bella Napoli
NOT every chef knows the best oil to use for different dishes.
In fact, there is a lot of ignorance about it, even at the top level. There are certainly many factors to bear in mind when deciding which oils to buy. Some are cheaper than others, but they might burn more quickly at higher temperatures or smell more compared to other products after they’ve been used for a while. Packaging is important too, both in terms of shipping and ease of storage.
The bigger containers tend to make a chef heavy-handed when pouring the oil – a chef is likely to waste less when pouring from a one-litre bottle compared to a five-litre one. The very best olive oils can sometimes overpower a delicate dish, ruining its taste and wasting money, so don’t assume that buying ‘best’ is the right way to go. Some oils are better-suited to fish or salads but not beef or pasta. Seek advice from your producer if you can.
Poor cooking and storage of oil can also have health implications for the consumer. Cooking at too low a temperature can cause bread crumbs to absorb more oil, for example, while failure to store cooked foods properly can cause the food to retain excess oil. But there are so many ways oils enhances dishes. Oils can be infused with so many natural flavours found in every kitchen: garlic cloves can be allowed to sit in oil to impart flavour, or blitz it for a much stronger taste.
At Bella Napoli, we use good-quality vegetable oil for deep fat frying and extra virgin for shallow frying, baking and marinades.