Coconut oil is fast becoming about as much of a “super-oil” as olive oil did when I was a teen. I remember when my mum started buying olive oil for cooking, because it was proclaimed to be the healthiest oil you could possibly cook with. Mum used it for everything: stir-frying, baking, roasting, dressings… Everything.
Well, of course, since then we’ve learned about this little catch called “smoke point” which means olive oil is no longer the oil-I-can-use-for-everything as it once was to me. I won’t go into detail about smoke points, but basically olive oil still remains a soothing balm for our heart muscles, full of healthy, healing properties, IF (!!!) it isn’t heated above 160°C (depending on the quality). I personally do a lot of stir-frying, so this information threw a bit of a spanner in my kitchen-works when I first learned of it. In looking around for a flawlessly healthy, affordable olive oil alternative, I realised I was going to have to diversify, and stock up on a small selection of different cooking oils/fats in order to get the most out of each in terms of health benefits and cost.
These days, I prefer to do my stir frying and roasts with avocado oil. It tastes delicious, has a high smoke point (271°C), is NZ grown and extracted, naturally requires little in the way of pesticides, is conveniently available in the supermarket, and it comes in glass bottles = all boxes ticked!. I still use olive oil for some things – extra virgin for pesto, hummus, and salad dressings; extra light for homemade mayonnaise. I fry with lard when I’m making a beef stew, and I use organic butter when I’m frying steak and mushrooms, or baking. For everything else? I’m completely in love with virgin organic coconut oil.
Yes, I’ll admit it’s not cheap – the good stuff anyway. But I think we can agree that the good stuff is rarely the cheapest on the shelf! With most things in life, you get what you pay for. We make good quality coconut oil affordable by buying in bulk. We’ve got two 5 Litre glass Fido jars in our pantry that we fill with a bulk buy of virgin coconut oil once, maybe twice? (I haven’t recorded dates) a year. By buying in bulk, it ends up costing about the same as supermarket-bought olive oil per litre.
So, why am I so in love with coconut oil?
Well, firstly the taste. I love everything coconut. Coconut flesh, shredded coconut in sweet treats, coconut jam, coconut milk, coconut cream, whipped coconut cream, coconut water …so it’s no surprise that I love the taste of coconut oil too. Coconut oil is winning favour with health-seekers everywhere though, because of its natural anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties, healthy saturated fats, and skin-healing properties. As for me, one of the best properties of coconut oil is its high melting point of 24°C. Below that temperature, coconut oil is solid. This is a property that makes it a very useful oil in both my kitchen and bathroom, particularly in winter!
You already know how I use coconut oil in the bathroom, so here are a few of the ways I use it in my kitchen:
– I make my own table spread by filling a glass jar with coconut oil and warming it just enough to melt the oil before stirring in a bit of avocado, and sometimes light olive oil, through (the proportions change depending on the season). In winter, I keep my table spread on the shelf and it hardens about as much as butter. In summer, I add a bit more liquid oil and keep it in the fridge. It’s delicious on toast, and the kids love it.
– When I can’t be bothered drying them, I finely chop my freshly harvested herbs (my favourite cooking herb is thyme), sprinkle them into ice cube trays, then cover with melted coconut oil. Half an hour in the fridge, and the herb/oil cubes are hard enough to be popped out of the trays and into a dish which can be stored in the freezer. When it’s time to add some oil and herbs to my cooking I can just grab a cube from my freezer.
– I keep a jar of chilled coconut oil cubes in my fridge. At night, after I’ve brushed my teeth and mouthwashed my mouth, I pop a coconut oil cube into my mouth and move it around my teeth and gums until it’s melted away. Coconut oil is fantastic for your teeth and gums, and I just can’t bring myself to spit it out as the oil pulling tradition instructs!
Although we can’t grow coconut palms in New Zealand, I do feel good about buying virgin coconut oil from our Pacific Island neighbours, and supporting their people and economies via a sustainable, healthy, and traditional product.
Some articles you may find interesting if you want to know more about…
Smoke points of various oils: