Text by Naomi Scher. Photo via amazon.com.
A good cooking oil is a staple in most every kitchen. At the Bushwick Food Co-Op, we carry a wide variety of bulk and bottled oils for all your frying, sautéing, and salad-dressing needs. If you’re a BFC shopper who lives in the neighborhood, you’re probably familiar with the limits of a tiny kitchen, and you probably don’t have enough room in your cupboard to keep six different types of oil on hand. That’s where peanut oil comes in. If you have to pick one oil to cover all your bases, peanut oil is a top contender in the versatility category.
You can find pre-bottled Spectrum Refined Peanut Oil ($8.75 mem./ $12.35 non-mem.) on our shelves at the BFC. Our sourcing committee carries Spectrum brand products because of the company’s commitment to sustainable production practices, and its efforts to use GMO-free, and organic ingredients. Their peanut oil is certified USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project verified, and packaged in bottles made from recycled glass.
What makes refined peanut oil so versatile? You may have heard of oil smoke points, and their effect on foods cooked in oil. Oils that are typically unrefined like avocado, chili, sesame, and olive oils are full of flavor and generally have more nutritional value than refined oils, but they’re not suitable for all cooking methods. This is because unrefined oils have low smoke points. If you’ve ever tried to stir-fry on high heat with virgin olive oil, you’ve probably noticed that the oil evaporates very quickly. Not only does this result in burnt food, it also breaks down the fat content of the oil, which releases free radicals. Free radicals are believed to cause cellular damage, which may lead to cancer and other kinds of disease. The refinement process removes ‘extraneous compounds,’ which in turn neutralizes an oil’s flavor, raises its smoke point, and extends its shelf life. Refined peanut oil has a smoke point of 450°F/230°C, making it safe to use for deep frying, searing, and stir-frying.
Peanut oil has applications beyond heating. It can be used in a variety of salad dressings, dips, and sauces where peanut is the predominant flavor; however refined varieties won’t add much of said flavor. It can also be used in place of vegetable oil in many recipes, provided you’re not cooking for anyone with a peanut allergy. It can also be used as a carrier oil for concentrated essential oils. Any neutrally-flavored oil can be used as the base of a homemade sugar or salt exfoliant – just add equal parts oil to salt or sugar, plus a few drops of your favorite fragrance oil. When using peanut oil topically, keep in mind that it is somewhat comedogenic, meaning it has the capacity to clog pores and cause acne.
Whatever you decide to use it for, peanut oil is a useful ingredient to have on hand. Consider picking up a bottle next time cooking oil is on your shopping list. And to our members: as always, If you really enjoyed (or disliked!) this product, be sure to let the sourcing committee know! They work hard to make sure that the products our members love stay stocked, and the ones they don’t love as much are replaced.