This year I am making informed choices about the ingredients I use in my cooking which have an impact on my health first and foremost and also which enhance tastes and flavour development in my recipes. I have read many conflicting reports about the health concerns relating to different cooking oils and since I regularly use one type or the other, I wanted to investigate the ones that are most healthy.
Coconut oil is the oil extracted from the white flesh of coconut fruit. It could be extracted by a cold press process (of the dried coconut flesh) or by boiling coconut milk. The cold pressed method yields a superior quality oil, ideal for both cooking and grooming. There are different types of coconut oil depending on how much refining it has gone through. Virgin coconut oil has not been refined, de-deodorised or bleached and still has all vital nutrients. Pure coconut oil optionally undergoes some heat related purification process, but not chemical purification (which may alter its chemical composition).
How times change! Once upon a time, coconut oil was demonised and regarded as unhealthy because it contains very high levels of saturated fats (up to about 94% saturated fat). But today, it is considered a super food for the same reason! New and emerging research proves that these same saturated fats pose no danger at all to health and are actually beneficial for health and beauty.
I have used coconut oil for virtually all types of cooking in my kitchen. I use it most for frying plantain, yam and fish. Because the oil is light and not thick/dense, it seems as though you are frying and boiling at the same time! So the resulting fried food remains quite moist. I also add coconut oil to soups, stews and dips to get that added depth of taste and flavour.
I was also quite excited to replace butter / margarine with coconut oil in my baking and the results were excellent. Was quite surprised at the outcome of my coconut oil cake in which I eliminated butter completely. I used a lesser amount than I would normally use if using butter. Also used in my meat pie and chin-chin recipes..
Coconut oil is also quite good for light / shallow frying and particularly good to sauté meat and vegetables. When liquid, coconut oil is excellent as a carrier oil and you can make delicious sauces and condiments by infusing herbs and spices in it. It also keeps well and would not easily deteriorate so you can make a batch and use for weeks. With some added salt and black pepper, coconut oil makes a great dressing for salads.