Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Product Alert: Grapeseed Oil

A lot of people use canola oil as their standard oil. For me, canola oil is a bad choice. I find that it's pretty hard to clean up - it tends to form a slick on my pots that's hard to get off. Also, and much more damning, is that it can smell and taste fishy. I have had a few dishes turn out pretty badly as a result of this off taste.

I have read about grapeseed oil for years, but have never been able to find it. Grapeseed oil is pressed from, you guessed it, grapeseeds.

Recently, I noticed that Costco and my supermarket are carrying it. It's pricier than canola or vegetable oil at $5.00 a liter, but there are a number of reasons you should consider adding it to your pantry:
  • It's pretty much flavorless so it is a great addition to baked goods or dressings where the oil's flavor should be in the background.
  • It has a very high smoke point so you can use it for deep frying or sauteing with no worries.
  • Grapeseed oil is a great emulsifier and may not separate as easily when making mayonnaise or dressings.
  • Because of its neutral flavor, it's easily used as a carrier for flavors in making infused oils.
I've added this oil to my pantry as a standard item. This means I keep five types of oil in my cabinet: virgin olive oil (for sauteing), extra virgin olive oils (several, for salad dressings and drizzling on dishes), tree nuts oils (like almond, hazelnut or walnut - for dressings and drizzling - these get kept in the fridge), peanut oil (for stir fries - although grapeseed could take this one's place), and grapeseed oil (for all the reasons listed above).


mary said...

I've been wanting to try this. Thanks for the heads up!

Sunday Cook said...

You bet - the way my kitchen cabinets are overstocked, I only add a new product if it stands up to use in my kitchen.

Kitt said...

I love grapeseed oil for all kinds of frying, and also for seasoning my cast-iron pans. I've found it's cheapest in Asian markets.

Sunday Cook said...

That's interesting Kitt. Is it labeled grapeseed, or does it have some sneakier name? I've never noticed it in my Asian market, but I wasn't looking before.

V. N. said...

This is an innocent but typically uninformed write-up. Grapeseed oil has 20% mono-unsaturated fat(the good fat) versus 61% in canola and 72% in olive oil. Grapeseed has ZERO Omega-3 fat versus 11% in canola. Grapeseed has 69% (!) Omega-6 fat (the kind we need to consume in limits) versus 21% in canola. The smoking point of grapeseed is 215 degrees centigrade versus 242 for canola! Of course,all this doesn't matter if we don't care what we put in our bodies.

Sunday Cook said...

As V.N. semi-snarkily points out, grapeseed oil isn't a perfect substance.

Since I was too innocent and uninformed before, let me clarify. (As an aside, I never claimed that this blog was a scientific publication, and if y'all want me to throw down on the technical stuff, just let me know. My friends and family will tell you that I'm always happy to get geeky.)

For me the characteristics of grapeseed make it a much more appropriate oil for certain applications than canola.

First off, I use olive oil almost exclusively for all cooking applications. So I have no concerns about my omega-3 or monounsaturated fat intakes.

Grapeseed is used in my kitchen for deep-frying (which I seldom do), for baking in recipes that call for a neutral-flavored oil and in infused and flavored oils. It probably accounts for 5% or so of my oil consumption.

In those applications, grapeseed's smoke point of 215C (420F) is acceptable to me. As a comparison folks, virgin olive oil's smoke point is the same as grapeseed (extra virgin's is much lower at ~375F).

On the canola front, V.N. is correct: its smoking point is higher than that of grapeseed, it does have higher levels of monounsaturated fats, and it reportedly has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids (although this claim is in dispute.

Something, V.N. neglected to mention is that canola oil is highly processed. Canola, also known as rapeseed, oil is highly toxic to humans in its natural form. To get it to a point where humans can consume it safely, it must undergo a significant amount of processing. In fact, the reason our grandmothers and mothers didn't teach us to cook using canola is that it wasn't available commercially before the mid-70s and wasn't readily available until the mid-80s. This doesn't mean that other oils don't undergo processing (think of what it must take to get oil out of grape pits, for instance), but it is worth noting that canola is not some magic oil created by Mother Nature (not that V.N. made that claim).

Finally, and frankly the most important point to me: I really, really hate the taste of canola. Some people (not all) detect a fishiness in canola oil when it's heated and I am one of those people. I don't like the flavor, so I don't use the product - that simple. If you don't detect it, or don't mind it, use canola.

Before I started using grapeseed, I was using virgin olive oil in all the applications I use grapeseed for now - it made for one or two interesting cakes, but all in all it worked out ok most of the time. Tasted fine, was just expensive.

I think the thing to remember is that when we consume oils and fats it should be in moderation. The fats we consume in greater quantities should be "good" fats, like those found in high levels in olive oil.

Thanks V.N., for spurring me to provide a little more information to my readers!

V. N. said...

Just two further comments Sunday Cook: firstly, Olive Oil - which I rank as No 1 - unfortunately has no Omega-3. Please note - this is the only inadequacy of olive oil. Secondly, the "dispute" about Omega-3 in canola can easily be settled by testing fat composition in any lab if anyone should care enough. The fact is that standard pure canola does have about 11% omega-3.

hd said...

Strange that sunday cook doesn't like the taste of canola- most chefs hail canola for being absolutely flavourless. Also very good for baking, by the way.

As sunday cook also mentioned, Canola is no more processed than most refined oils like sunflower, safflower, soya, palm, even grapeseed.

Also - canola is NOT rapeseed. There is a strict, internationally-regulated of canola that differentiates it from rapeseed, based upon it having less than 2 percent erucic acid and less than 30 umoles glucosinolates (sorry to get technical but if it ain't rapeseed, it ain't rapeseed.)

The 'dispute' link that sunday cook leads to an article that actually has several basic errors. Incidentally, there are many myths about Canola, obviously propagated by some other oil companies. Take a look at http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/canola.asp . What you read first is a ranting against Canola, and then the website systematically breaks these myths down, one point at a time. Very entertaining and completely restores one's faith in Canola. The lengths people go to in order to pull something good down!

Sunday Cook said...

Wow! Little did I know what passion I'd incite by confessing my distaste for canola oil!

hd - thank you for the link to the Snopes article. (I relinked it here for folks to get to easily.) Snopes is a good source of information and I trust Barbara's writeups. Thank you.

I do disagree with your statement that canola isn't rapeseed. Yes it is. It's a form of rapeseed that's been bred to contain less erucic acid. For branding purposes it was renamed canola (just like the Snopes article says). To me, whether canola is rapeseed or not really isn't a big deal. Humans have bred plants to do what we want them to (way before the dawn of genetic engineering - canola is NOT genetically engineered), and the rapeseed that was bred to produce a safe oil (canola) is just another example of that breeding.

Finally, hd, I just greatly dislike the taste of canola. I'm not implying that I am some kind of "super-taster" that tastes things others don't. I just know that I have had several experiences (with different containers of canola) in which a strong fishy taste was evident when the oil was heated. Perhaps if I used high quality,cold-pressed canola I'd have some kind of taste epiphany and would love it. Let's just put that issue down to individual tastes: you like the taste (or don't taste it all)? Bully for you - eat up. I don't, so I won't use it.

Sunday Cook said...

V.N. - yes, unfortunately our favorite oil (olive) contains no Omega-3.

I prefer to supplement my Omega-3 needs with ground flaxseed which I put in my morning granola. It's a more reliable way for me (than cooking with an Omega-3-rich oil) to make sure I consume an adequate amount every day.

Hope the first anniversary of your canola oil business went well! (Or are you a different V.N.?)

Moby Mud said...

Just one last post about Canola oil: much more than half of it is in fact genetically engineered, but not for taste nor erucic purposes, instead to make it more resistant to certain herbicides. I'd imagine that it might be better to season pans as well. I might decide to switch to Canola, or at least try it. I've been a Grapeseed bigot for the last few years.
p.s. It may be that it smells like firsh to you because you nose detects certain markers of Omega-3 also present in fish. Just a thought...

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