An important decision to make while practicing healthy cooking is the selection of oil. Each cooking process requires a different treatment and heating point, which if used wrongly can ruin a dish and your appetite. We employ many methods for day-to-day cooking — from grilling, deep frying and sautéing to pan frying and tempering. It is important to note that not all fats are the same — the more refined the oil, the higher its smoke point. Once the oil exceeds its smoke point and breaks down, it is no longer suitable for use given that it has released free radicals and a chemical called acrolein which gives food the burnt flavour and possibly makes the oil carcinogenic.
Rule of thumb: The higher the smoking point of the oil, the more cooking methods you can use it for.
Sesame oil is polyunsaturated and its smoking point is a high 410°F/232°C, which makes it the perfect candidate for most methods of cooking.
- Sautéing with sesame oil does not require very high temperatures as you are to keep adding ingredients and let it cook slowly without burning
- Deep-frying relies on a high smoke point of oil that keeps the flavour of the dish intact while giving it a crisp texture. Common types of foods that are fried using sesame oil include; battered or breaded fish or vegetables, crisps, chips and tempura
- Stir-frying is a fast mode of cooking which requires a thin coating of sesame oil to lubricate the food. This is done mostly with oriental dishes that essentially preserve the crispiness and crunch of the vegetables
- Searing requires meat to be heated rapidly to promote browning. Again, oils with high smoke points like sesame oil are preferred to make steaks or pork chops
- Grilling requires the oil to be brushed on the vegetables/meat/fish/patties for moisture as it uses dry heat for cooking. Therefore, using sesame oil promotes browning without losing flavour
- Freshly tossed salads need a good flavour that can be enjoyed raw. Using sesame oil in the salad dressings is a good idea, as is demonstrated by European cuisine
- Many cake recipes now require usage of oils that do not have an overpowering taste or smell. Sesame oil is the preferred choice among many bakers
- Omelettes too become fluffier when you add a hint of sesame oil to the beaten egg
- While boiling vegetables, add a dash of sesame oil to retain and enhance the colour
- Sesame oil improve the flavour and retains the original taste when used to marinate ingredients
- Adding one tablespoon of sesame oil to two-three cups of rice makes the rice juicier and shine
Most other oils are restricted to only certain types of cooking because of lower smoking points. This makes sesame oil a versatile ingredient in your cooking endeavours. Bon appétit!