Are cold pressed oil good for cooking?
Are cold pressed oils good for Indian cooking? Are cold pressed oils good for deep frying? Similarly, are wood pressed oils good for Indian cooking? Are wood pressed oils good for deep frying?.... These are the questions we regularly hear from our friends and family members who understands Indian cooking. These people also knows the impact of a natural cooking oil’s aroma and taste in a recipe or a specific veg or non-veg Indian food dish.
To answer these questions, we need to first understand the difference between cold pressed oil vs refined oil. And also how cold pressed oil are made, how to select best cold pressed oil for our dishes and recipes.
In my other blog, I had explained the difference between cold pressed oil vs refined oil in detail. In summary here, the regular branded refined oil which we buy from our Kirana shops, grocery stores or other daily needs super stores, is basically a vegetable oil, mostly palm oil which is used as base oil to make a refined i.e. chemically processed version of edible oil by mixing with various seeds oils such as sunflower or peanut or mustard oils.
Refined oils are vegetable, nut, or seed oils which have been highly processed and are extracted using high-heat and/or toxic chemical solvents and goes through a deodorizing and bleaching process. This type of processing denatures the oils, creating trans-fatty substances. It also removes their natural vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, causing these oils to go rancid very quickly.
On the other hand, cold pressed i.e. wood pressed oil (and not screw expeller pressed), are getting more and more popularity in today’s time with people having health awareness. Wood pressed oils can be extracted only from oil seeds which naturally contain oil in them. Typically when we say cotton seed oil, soybean oil or palm oil, these are not natural oils. It means for getting the oil from soybean, cotton seed or palm, chemical extraction is needed. In case of natural oil seeds like peanut i.e. groundnut, sunflower, safflower, sesame, mustard, coconut, flaxseed, oil can be easily extracted using pressure on these seeds.
Now, how is cold pressed oil made – there are two methods basis the type of machines used for this purpose.
Steel screw expeller machine uses a heat chamber to heat the expeller beyond 150 degrees so that the seeds are roasted inside while getting crushed thus maximizing the oil output. Although these machines are called as cold pressed machines, the oils thus extracted are not pure cold pressed. Since the heat is applied while extracting, the oil’s temperature gets increased beyond 60 degree Celsius and sometimes even beyond 120 degrees.
Such heated oil breaks down its mono unsaturated fatty acids converting them into saturated fatty acids. It means the oils composition and quality gets degraded. The resulting taste and aroma gets compromised and the oils tends to get rancid very quickly. This oil is not considered good for health and we must not pay high price for such oils in the name of cold pressed false branding and advertising.
This is clearly evident when we smell and taste the oil – you will not get the sweet delicate nutty aroma of groundnuts and sesame, it won’t taste balanced and light sweet.
Similarly in case of mustard oil, the expeller cold pressed mustard oil (typically called as Kachi Ghani or kacchi ghaani) is generally bland to taste and its signature pungent aroma is absent. To substitute for the aroma, artificial chemicals are added to replicate the smell of wood pressed pungent mustards. However, this smell also gives away its artificialness and can be quickly identified if you had known the original crushed mustard aroma.
Authentic cold pressed oils are those which are made in typical Lakdi Ghani i.e. Marachekku machines having both top and bottom part (Ural and Chamber) made of solid wood. These machines comes in sizes of 20kg to 50Kg per batch processing capacity. The rotation RPM speed is generally 18-20 RPM. It churns the seeds slowly and for a 20kg batch, it takes approx. 45 to 60 mins to complete the oil extraction.
Even the balance oil cake residue is always rich with oil content. This is because the wood press machine don’t generate heat and the pressure is also limited while churning. The oils thus pressed is pure, natural and full of its original nutrition components intact. The MUFA and PUFA are 100% retained in the wood pressed oil. It carries the original nutty aroma and taste.
Good wood pressed oils manufacturer don’t even use any mechanical filtering and let the extracted oil sit as is for 24 – 48 hrs for natural stabilization and clarification. This naturally clarified oil is packed for storage. No chemical agents are added at any stage in this process, not even for foaming reduction, no preservatives and no artificially added vitamins.
Coming back to the question, is this pure and natural oil good for cooking?
For Indian cooking in every part of the country, we use medium to high heat in many of our dishes. Imagine what this heat is doing to an already refined, chemically processed, saturated fats & Trans-fats heavy vegetable oil. It’s getting further destroyed in the process and making it more and more unsuitable for our health.
Refined oils contain a large amount of omega-6 fatty acids. Because so much of our food is processed with refined oils, we are getting too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3. This causes an imbalance in our bodies which can lead to chronic inflammation. However, refined oils tend to have higher smoking points which make them sound better suited for cooking techniques that use high heat.
In fact, the unrefined but healthy wood pressed oils like Safflower, Sunflower, Mustard and Peanut oils are having a very good high smoking point, making them best choice for Indian cooking style.
Packaging plays an important role in preserving the best aroma and flavor of wood pressed oils. The cold pressed oil should be naturally stabilized and then packed in a proper air tight metal container. Metal tins helps to preserve the oils for longer time with same original aroma and flavor. It helps from oil going rancid in taste.
The use of plastic bottle must be avoided as the oil is more exposed to light, heat and of course the plastic! This is another very important factor to identify serious and genuine brand of wood pressed oils. Not everyone can make use of metal tins for their oil packaging as its premium and hence costs more.
Competition and pricing pressures
In this age, competition is very high and many brands out there are trying to make space for themselves in the market by compromising on quality of seeds, compromising in process by using expeller machines instead of lakdi ghani, compromising grade of oil by repressing the oil cake in over heated expeller machines for more oil yield.
Similarly they are also using cheap plastic bottles or so called heavy duty plastic jars to keep overall cost at the minimum. In the race to maintain the sale price in tune with other brands in the market, finally the oil quality is suffered as most of the brands are doing the same thing by looking at one another.
There are few respectable exceptions as well in the market, however you need to research the brand, their website, products, packaging, reviews, pricing and their about-us page information to gather information on integrity of quality and consistency.