If you have an uncontrollable urge to stop by your favorite eatery on your way back from work, know that you’re not alone. Every day, more and more people resort to eating food outdoors in restaurants or cafes due to multiple reasons that include a lack of time to cook, and increased accessibility. And while nothing is wrong with that, we must understand that our health is significantly dependant on the diet we consume. In recent times, many restaurants and eateries have come under scrutiny and assessed on the quality of ingredients they use to prepare food.
In this article, we will closely look at oils – particularly cooking oils – used in restaurants and eateries and discuss:
Assumptions about the quality of oil used in commercial eating places
The common type of oils used for cooking or baking in restaurants
Importance of choosing the finest quality oils for restaurants
Essential factors that must be considered when choosing a cooking oil
Dining out is no longer a luxury – given the multiple eating options. From affordable fast-food places to expensive and elaborate dining halls, individuals from any socio-economic background can almost always find some eatery that fits their pockets. And what keeps everyone hinged to cafes and restaurants is that they continue to deliver delicious food!
Amid all this, however, is a pertinent question: In addition to offering a great dining experience and making tremendous profits, do these eating places always use the healthiest and finest ingredients, especially cooking oils?
Assumptions about the Quality of Oil Used in Restaurants
Nutritionists and health experts have long been skeptical about the quality of oils used for cooking and baking in the commercial dining spots, which also includes some of the more lavish and pricey restaurants. A few assumptions that are relevant to oil usage are:
Restaurants compromise on the quality of oils to generate more profits
They prefer bulk shipments of oils which are extremely cheap but also barely healthy
Most of the oils used for cooking and greasing food are fattening oils
Some eateries reuse the old oils for sautéing frying pans, coating the meat, or even sandwich presses
While not all of these assumptions apply to every restaurant out there, it does not mean that they are baseless. Most commodity oils are purchased at low prices to generate large profits. But, as we will see later in the article, a careful selection of oil for cooking purposes is beneficial in many ways.
Common Types of Oils Used Today
There is a wide variety of oil types used today in restaurants and eateries. And interestingly, even the unhealthiest oils tend to taste good, which makes differentiating between oils difficult. Here is a list of some of the most common oils with their pros and cons that you must be aware of.
Vegetable Oil – This oil is typically made by blending different oils such as soybean, corn, sunflower, and palm oils. It is generously used in restaurants because it is inexpensive, contains essential fatty acids, and has a long shelf-life. But it may not be the best of oil types given that it is made from GMO sources and heavily processed – and may also be partially hydrogenated.
Butter – It is a great source of natural fat in terms of richness and flavor. It is composed of 81% milk fat and is quite creamy without many grains. Despite the delightful taste that the cream gives to the food, it poses a health risk when used in excess. Consider this: a single spoon of butter tends to have 100 calories and around 7 grams of saturated fat.
Margarine – made of vegetable oils, margarine contains milk, fish oils, and even animal fats along with coloring agents and emulsifiers. It is similar to the butter but is much lower in saturated fat content and has no cholesterol. A few dropbacks of this type of oil are that it is not suitable for frying purposes and is too soft to be used for baking. It also has high fat and calorie content.
Canola Oil – Extracted from rapeseed, canola oil is low in saturated fat and essential mono-unsaturated fats. A great quality of this oil is that it doesn’t interfere with the original taste or flavor of the dish. But due to a low smoke point, it can’t be used for high-heat frying or cooking.
Olive Oil – This oil is a staple in many household kitchens but not too common in commercial kitchens because it is an expensive option. It has highly beneficial qualities, such as high levels of fatty acids and antioxidants. It is great for use as a dressing or salads. However, like canola oil, it also has a very low smoke point.
Importance of Choosing the Finest Quality Oils for Restaurants
The secret ingredient for cooking the best meal is the kind of cooking oil used. Restaurants can go from being empty to having endless waiting lists only by changing the quality of the oil they use. This vast difference is a result of how fine quality oil can give the right texture, flavor, and appearance to the food. Qualified chefs are aware that it is important to not compromise on the quality of cooking oil because it affects the flavors of the food – low-quality oil tends to mask the food’s essential flavor, makes it crunchy and limp, and distorts its overall smell and appearance. High-quality oils also have an extended fry life, which is more than any commodity oil. Hence, you will need to replace oil less frequently, which will reduce labor costs as well as the costs of buying more oil in bulk quantity.
3-Step Guide: Choosing the Right Kind of Cooking Oil
Have you been using the best quality oil in your café but are still unable to deliver the best results? You are most likely missing out on something important. But don’t let that bother you. Remember that what qualifies as the finest quality oil is contingent on many factors. Restaurants generally have a diverse menu, featuring items that need to be cooked or baked as well as items that are roasted, grilled, or deep-fried. Hence, to ensure optimum results, you must choose high-quality oils that are ideal for the type of cooking you plan on doing.
The following are three easy steps that will help you find a fine quality oil best suited for the cooking needs of your eatery or restaurant!
Step 1: Consider the Stability of the Oils
Stability is a huge factor to consider when choosing cooking oil. It depends on how easily oil reacts with oxygen – the more resistant it is against oxidation, the more stable it is. Oils that remain stable even under very high temperatures tend to be better than others. To figure out if your chosen oil is stable or not, you should look at the saturation of fatty acids in it. Different saturation degrees you are likely to come across are:
Saturated Fatty Acids – The carbon chains are saturated with hydrogen atoms, which make them yield a highly stable structure. These acids resist oxidation and are highly suitable for cooking or deep-frying under high temperatures. Examples include coconut oil, butter, palm oil, etc.
Mono-Unsaturated Fatty Acids – These acids are not densely packed, which means that they cannot be exposed to very high heat. Commonly used mono-unsaturated fatty acid oils are avocado oil and olive oil.
Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids –Missing several hydrogen atoms, these fatty acids have the least stable structure. Due to this, they easily oxidize and produce a high amount of free radicals when heated. The ration of Omega-3 to Omega-6 should be maintained equally to prevent inflammation. Examples include safflower oil, bran oil, and canola oil.
Step 2: Identify the Smoking Point of the Oil
The smoking point of oil refers to the temperature at which the oil no longer simmers, and smoke starts to emerge from it. The oil starts to decompose as soon as it is heated beyond its smoking point. It releases harmful fumes and loses its beneficial nutrients. The naturally stable oils tend to have a higher smoking point than unstable ones. Today, manufacturers use refinement processes to produce oils that contain polyunsaturated fats and have a high smoke point.
Unrefined Oils – These oils are extracted from the oily parts of the plant by pressing and crushing it. They are then left in their virgin state and hence are as they occur in plant form. This process of extraction helps in preserving the oil’s nutrients, aroma, and flavor. Unfortunately, however, unrefined cooking oils have a low smoke point as well as a short shelf-life. They are extremely healthy but are only suitable for either low-temperature cooking or dressing purposes.
Refined Oils – These oils are made using extensive chemical and mechanical extraction processes. The process involves crushing the seeds, pressing them, bathing them with a hexane solvent, refining and bleaching the oil extract, and then deodorizing the refined oil. The purpose of refining the oil is to increase its shelf-life, neutralize its flavor, and change its smoking point. These can be used for cooking at high temperatures and lack a strong flavor – a popular example is of the coconut oil.
Hydrogenated Oils – hydrogenation is a process of adding hydrogen into the Omega-6 oils to make them solid at room temperature. Most refined oils undergo this process to serve as a less-perishable and cheap alternative to butter. A drawback of hydrogenated oils is that they contain trans-fatty acids, which are difficult to digest or metabolize. Hence, posing a great threat to health and contributing to the risk of cancer and heart diseases.
Step 3: Look at the Quality of Raw Ingredients Used in the Oil
To determine the quality of oil, you must consider the quality of its raw ingredients. Researchers have concluded that organic oils should ideally replace non-organic oils because the pesticides used on the raw ingredient (i.e., plant) along with environmental toxins are fat-soluble. These pesticides can accumulate in the fatty acids of the plant, which gradually get packed in a small concentrated amount of oil. Organic oils are also preferred over non-organic ones because they are not genetically modified.
So, Are Restaurants Really Opting for Fine Quality Oils?
With a recent wave of awareness among the consumers, anything or any way in which the restaurant owners can transform the menu into a healthier one is a win-win situation. Due to this development, restaurants are shifting away from partially hydrogenated oils towards healthier options. This shift has been partly orchestrated by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States that has warned the food industry to eliminate any ingredients that pose a danger to health. Despite this change, there is a long way to go. The restaurant industry, especially fast-food chains, continues to use cooking oils that are not of the finest quality but garner less attention.
Looking for the Finest Quality Oils?
Regardless of whether you own a lavish restaurant or a small charming café, Maverik Oils offers an exclusive range of fine quality cooking oils for professional use in every capacity. We have a wide and diverse range of oils made from traceable ingredients and contain zero trans-fat that promises meals that pack not only delicious flavors but are also healthy for your customers!