Good Fats for Cooking

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

by Cat, Jan 2007 (with subsequent updates)

(Photo, right, by D. Morgan. Goose and duck fat is one of the best fats for cooking and baking).

See also: Rendering Lard or Suet (in a crockpot; Ghee (Clarified Butter)Essential Fatty Acids: A Case of BalanceFats and Oils: Smoke Point

This article includes the following categories:

  1. Fats for different levels of heat and use: 1a. High-temperature and deep-fat frying; 1b. Sautéing; 1c. Baking; 1d. Salad oils; 1e. Condiments; 1f. Spreads.
  2. Fat composition of ‘good’ fats;
  3. Essential Fats;
  4. Butter
  5. Tropical Oils;
  6. Olive oil use & storage;
  7. Fats to Avoid

This essay outlines how you can eliminate all hydrogenated & partially hydrogenated fats in your diet. This means NO french-fried foods unless you know the fat is safe.

Good Fats for Cooking

Fats for High-Temperature Cooking (Deep-Fat & Pan-Frying)

High-temperature cooking causes extensive damage to most vegetable fats; this damage contributes to many diseases in humans, including cancer. See article on the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) website – go to References section (bottom of this page) for the link.

Your ONLY choice for high-heat cooking should be those with high saturated fat content, as they are the only fats that can tolerate high temperatures without becoming toxic (rancid, or oxidized). This includes all animal fats (except butter and ghee), but only a few vegetable fats. These include:

  • Avocado Oil — liquid at room temperature. Best if cold-pressed. Best fat for deep-frying (smoke-point is 520°F).
  • Beef and Mutton Tallow, solid at room temperature. Excellent for frying (but you may not like the flavor).  Good source of antimicrobial palmitoleic acid.
  • Lard or Pork Fat, solid at room temperature. Excellent flavor for frying.  Excellent source of vitamin D.  Make sure it does not contain hydrogenated lard — read the label.
  • Duck or Goose Fat, semisolid at room temperature. Excellent flavor for frying.
  • Chicken Fat, semisolid at room temperature. Flavor is very distinctively ‘chicken.’
  • Palm Oil — a tropical vegetable oil, solid at room temperature.  One drawback:  critical tropical rain forests are being denuded in favor of planting palm trees for their oil. Use only those that are certified as sustainably grown.
  • Coconut Oil — like palm oil, this is a tropical vegetable oil, solid at room temperature; do not heat above 350°F.  May impart a coconutty flavor to the fried food.  Make sure it is not hydrogenated coconut oil — read the label.

Do not use for high-heat cooking:

  • Monounsaturated fats/oils (like avocado, olive and peanut oils) and ‘vegetable’ poly-unsaturated oils (like corn, canola or safflower oil); if used for high-temperature frying, you risk oxidizing them, which makes them toxic (rancid).  See my article on Oxidative Damage (1) in the Health section of my main website for more.
  • Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats for high-temperature frying, to avoid risk of all the complications caused by toxic trans fats. See my article on Essential Fats and the Toxicity of Trans Fats (2) in the Health section of my main website. If you use inter-esterified fats (not indicated as such on the label), you risk potentially worse complications than those caused by trans fats. See my article on Chemically Altered Fats (3) in the Health section of my main website)

See also an article on the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) website – go to References section (bottom of this page), for the link.

Fats for Sautéing

You can use any of the good fats listed above (for high-temperature frying) also for sautéing.  If you are sautéing at medium temperatures, you might also choose from the following list.

NOTE: these fats are all high in monounsaturated fats, which can be oxidized (made rancid) by high heat. These are best used at low or medium temperatures with a bit of moisture to moderate the temperature (i.e., braising). And keep them in a cool, dark place.

  • Olive Oil — liquid at room temperature. Mercola does not advise using extra-virgin olive oil for any cooking, and advises use of refined olive oil only for low-temperature cooking in presence of moisture (braising). See note on Olive Oil at end of this article.
  • Butter — Solid at room temperature. Butter is stable for medium-low temperature sautéing.
  • Ghee (Clarified butter) smokes less than regular butter and can be used at medium temperatures, because the proteins have been removed. See “Butter” section below for more about the health benefits of this misunderstood fat.
  • Coconut Oil — like palm oil, this is a tropical vegetable oil, solid at room temperature; do not heat above 350°F.  May impart a coconutty flavor to the fried food.  Make sure it is not hydrogenated coconut oil — read the label.
  • Peanut Oil — liquid at room temperature. Best if cold-pressed. Avoid use for high-temperature stir-fry, as the high percentage of poly-unsaturated linoleic acid makes it a potential danger for oxidation (rancidity).
  • Sesame Oil —  liquid at room temperature. Contains unique antioxidants that are not destroyed by heat, and so has minimal risk of rancidity when used at higher sautéing temperatures.  However, its use should still be limited, in order to maintain a proper Omega-3/Omega-6 balance for optimal health.
  • Safflower, Sunflower Oils — Use only if cold pressed, and produced by hybrid high-oleic plants designed to make an oil similar to olive oil.  Limit this use, however, in order to maintain a proper Omega-3/Omega-6 balance for optimal health. Do not use if GMO.

Fats for Baking

  • Lard or Pork Fat solid at room temperature. Excellent for pastry and any recipe calling for ‘shortening.’  Excellent source of vitamin D.  Make sure it does not contain hydrogenated lard — read the label.
  • Duck or Goose Fat — semisolid at room temperature.  Excellent for cakes and any recipe calling for ‘shortening.’
  • Coconut Oil — a tropical vegetable oil, solid at cooler room temperatures, yet softer than palm oil. Imparts a light coconutty flavor to baked goods, which is an added bonus.  Make sure it is not hydrogenated coconut oil — read the label.  Excellent for cakes, non-yeast breads and muffins.  I have found that when used in cookie dough, the cookies tend to flatten too much, and become too crispy when cooled.
  • Butter — Excellent for pastry and any recipe calling for ‘shortening.’ A ‘MUST’ for Scandinavian cookies. See “Butter” section below for more about the health benefits of this misunderstood fat.
  • Olive Oil — This is used in some Italian and Middle-Eastern baked goods like foccacia and pita. While this oil cannot tolerate high heat such as used for baking these breads, the moisture of the dough moderates the oil’s exposure to that high heat.
  • Palm Oil —  a tropical vegetable oil, solid at room temperature, perhaps too hard for some uses.  Because of this, many cooks prefer butter, lard or goose fat. Environmental drawback:  critical tropical rain forests are being denuded in favor of planting palm trees for their oil. Use only those that are certified as sustainably grown.

Oils for Salads

  • Olive Oil — iquid at room temperature. The high percentage of oleic acid (75%) makes this a most excellent choice for salad dressings.
  • Avocado Oil — liquid at room temperature, and is high in mono-unsaturated fats.
  • Peanut Oil — liquid at room temperature. Best if cold-pressed to avoid rancidity. Especially good with Asian salads.  Limit use, in order to maintain a proper Omega-3/Omega-6 balance for optimal health.
  • Sesame Oil — liquid at room temperature. Best if cold-pressed to avoid rancidity. Especially good with Asian salads.  Limit use, in order to maintain a proper Omega-3/Omega-6 balance for optimal health.

Fats for Condiments (dipping sauces, spreads, etc.)

NOTE: Keep these in a cool, dark place.

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil — liquid at room temperature; high in monounsaturated fats, which can be oxidized (made rancid) by high heat, even room temperature.
  • Butter and Ghee — softly solid at room temperature. See “Butter” section below for more about the health benefits of this misunderstood fat.
  • Cream Cheese
  • Sour Cream & Creme Fraiche
  • Cheeses

Smoke Point of common cooking oils/fats

See my post _, or printable pdf: Smoke Point of Fats and Oils.pdf.

Composition of Good Fats and Oils

Primarily saturated fats;

  • Beef and Mutton Tallow, solid at room temperature; 50-55% saturated, 40% monounsaturated, <3% polyunsaturated.
  • Lard or Pork Fat, solid at room temperature; 40% saturated, 48% monounsaturated, 12% polyunsaturated.
  • Duck or Goose Fat, semisolid at room temperature; 35% saturated, 52% monounsaturated, 13% polyunsaturated.
  • Chicken Fat, semisolid at room temperature; 31% saturated, 49% monounsaturated, 20% polyunsaturated.
  • Palm Oil — a tropical vegetable oil, solid at room temperature.  50% saturated, 41% monounsaturated, and 9% polyunsaturated.
  • Coconut Oil — a tropical vegetable oil, solid at room temperature.  92% saturated (%’s of mono and polyunsaturated fats not available).
  • Butter, Ghee —  62.9% saturated (12-15% short and medium-chain fatty acids), 31.9% monounsaturated, and 0.3% polyunsaturated.

High in mono-unsaturated fats:

  • Olive Oil — liquid at RT*; 13% saturated, 75% mono- and 12% poly-unsaturated
  • Avocado Oil — liquid at RT; 11% saturated, 71% mono- and 14% poly-unsaturated
  • Peanut Oil — liquid at RT; 18% saturated, 48% mono- and 34% poly-unsaturated
  • Sesame Oil — liquid at RT: 15% saturated, 42% mono- and 43% poly-unsaturated
  • Lard — solid at RT: 41% saturated, 47% mono- and 12% poly-unsaturated

* RT is short for room temperature

Poly-unsaturated oils

Use only if cold pressed, as oils are damaged by heat. Most are GMO (unless Organic). Limit this use, however, in order to maintain a proper Omega-3/Omega-6 balance for optimal health

  • Safflower Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Soy Oil
  • Cottonseed Oil
  • ‘Salad’ Oil

Canola Oil:  Beware. Canola oil is not listed as a “good fat” on my website for the following reasons:

  • First, it is made from a hybridized strain of rapeseed (to reduce levels of the toxic erucic acid present in natural rape seed). Most canola is GMO. Like hydrogenated fats, canola oil is not made by nature but by man’s manipulation.  I have concluded that time will prove it to be unhealthy for human consumption, just as have hydrogenated fats.
  • Second, like rapeseed oil, canola oil has other toxic effects not related to erucic acid:  Results of Canadian studies using rats or pigs report: “Canola oil is associated with fibrotic lesions of the heart. It also causes vitamin E deficiency, undesirable changes in the blood platelets and shortened life-span in stroke-prone rats when it was the only oil in the animals’ diet. Furthermore, it seems to retard growth, which is why the FDA does not allow the use of canola oil in infant formula.” (from westonprice.org, but original link gives ‘not found’ error).
  • Third, like rapeseed oil, canola oil also contains the toxic erucic acid, though at lower levels.

Essential Fats

Two classes of fats are termed as ‘essential’ because our bodies cannot make them.  Therefore we must obtain them in our diet.  These polyunsaturated fats are called Omega-6 and Omega-3.  Refer to my article: Essential Fats: A Case of Balance (links to the Diet & Health section of my website) for more on this subject.

Butter and Ghee

Butter is comprised of 65% saturated, 31% mono- and 4% poly-unsaturated fats. Of the saturated fats, 12% are short- and medium-chain saturated fats, which do not require emulsification with bile, and thus are readily digested and absorbed directly from the small intestine to the liver.  They are very important for the health of the liver, as they assist in detoxification of other substances. These fats also have antimicrobial, anti-tumor and immune-system-supporting properties.  Four-carbon butyric acid also has anti-fungal properties.

Butyric acid – the fatty acid for which butter is named – is a short-chain (4 carbons) saturated fatty acid that has many health benefits. The following are from Dr. Axe (6); see his site for more detail.

  • Weight loss, and with probiotics, can help prevent metabolic syndrome;
  • Potential col0rectal cancer treatment;
  • Positive effect on gut health; provide relief for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease;
  • Combat’s insulin resistance (related to metabolic syndrome);
  • Anti-inflammatory effects – inflammation is the root of most diseases.

Other sources of butyric acid: butter, raw milk, and some cheeses. You can also increase butyric acid in the gut by eating certain high-probiotic foods (the probiotics convert fiber and resistant starch) to beneficial fats like butyric acid; from Dr. Axe (6):

To naturally increase the butyric acid production in your body, you can up your intake of healthy prebiotics like raw Jerusalem artichokes, raw dandelion greens, raw jicama and under-ripe bananas.

Tropical Oils

Tropical oils, such as coconut and palm oil*, have been given a bad rap, along with other saturated fats.  For more information on this, refer to the Coconut and Other Tropical Oils section of my “Tropical Oils” article.

*NOTE: Use only palm oil from orchards that are certified as sustainably grown.

Olive Oil

Mercola published an article about the proper way to use and store olive oil, to avoid rancidity. (See ‘Mercola on olive oil’ in the References section). He makes the point that extra-virgin olive oil contains chlorophyl which gives it a light green color, but also accelerates decomposition of the oil, leading to rancidity. Extra-virgin oil should be stored in the refrigerator and NEVER used for cooking (with heat). It is excellent for salad dressings and other cold or room-temperature uses.

Refined olive oils can be used for sautéing at low or moderate temperatures, and especially when moisture is present (as for braising).

Replace the cap promptly on bottled olive oil, to minimize oxygen exposure. Store in a cool dark place, such as the refrigerator. Using a colored bottle for storage is also advised, as it minimizes penetration of light.

See also my Olive Oil: The Real Deal, or Adulterated/Fake article, to be sure you are using real olive oil.

Fats to avoid

Hydrogenated, Partially-hydrogenated fats, oils (Trans-Fats)

‘Hydrogenation’ means to convert an unsaturated or poly-unsaturated fat/oil to a fully saturated fat/oil. ‘Partially-hydrogenation’ is a similar process but instead of saturating the fat, it converts the unsaturated bonds in the fat to the ‘trans’ configuration, which is not normal in nature (with very few exceptions), and has been proven to be harmful to your health. It should be noted that complete hydrogenation is highly unlikely, and will contain some partially-hydrogenated fats.

Most commercial lard has been hydrogenated (read ‘hydrogenated lard’ in the list of ingredients), which undoubtedly includes some partially-hyrogenated trans fats. The best lard is what you render at home. Some commercial coconut oil has been hydrogenated; I advise avoiding this as well.

Crisco and other brands of shortening, and nearly all margarines contain partially-hydrogenated trans fats, so should also be avoided.

NOTE:  Canola oil is not listed as a “’good fat” on my website for reasons listed below under “Canola Oil:  Beware).

“Mixed” or “inter-esterified” fats/oils

When the health issues of trans-fats became widely known, the food-science people came up with another way to solidify vegetable oils, to avoid trans fats. The chemical name for this process is ‘inter-esterification.’ Now most brands of shortening and margarine are made solid by this method, and are advertised as  “contains no trans-fat” on the label.

In the list of ingredients, they only list the oils they started with (before chemically-altering them) because they are not yet required by law to indicate they are altered. This labeling leads the consumer to conclude the listed fats & oils are simply mixed together and magically become and remain solid.

For example, the label may indicate “palm oil, canola oil”. Palm oil is solid at room temperature while canola oil is liquid. Simply mixing them does not guarantee they will not separate into solid and liquid layers. Instead, they are mixed and heated in the presence of a catalyst that causes the fatty structure to break up and recombine – this is called ‘inter-esterification’ – into a totally different configuration that is mostly solid at room temperature.

Unfortunately, animal metabolism does recognize the new structure, and that leads to significant health issues.

NOTE:  Canola oil is not listed as a “’good fat” on my website for reasons listed below under “Canola Oil:  Beware).

References:

Unless otherwise noted, content of this article is paraphrased from: 

  1. Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon and Mary G, Enig, PhD; and
  2. University of Maryland Medical Center website:  umm.edu/altmed/ConsSupplements/Omega3FattyAcidscs.html
  3. Mercola on olive oil: articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/10/30/rudi-moerck-on-cooking-oils.aspx
  4. Butter composition: antoine.frostburg.edu/chem/senese/101/consumer/faq/butter-composition.shtml
  5. Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) on fats for high-temperature cooking: westonaprice.org/health-topics/know-your-fats/the-big-fat-surprise-toxic-heated-oils
  6. Dr. Axe: draxe.com/butyric-acid

My own referenced articles (from the Diet and Health section of my website; note that I am moving these articles to a new blog catsfork.com/CatsHealth):

  1. catsfork.com/Health-Disease/_Atherosclerosis.html
  2. catsfork.com/Health-Diet/Fats_Essential.html
  3. catsfork.com/Health-Disease/ChemFats.html

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