Daily Health Tips: Is Your Cooking Oil Safe?


As we approach the festive season and the time when people cook a lot to celebrate, I reproduce a post I had made before. I have received a lot of questions on cancer since the post I made on it and I have also been asked this question on re-using oil, frequently. So, here goes!

Q: Should we re-use oils that have been used for frying?

A: This is a very important question. How do we tell the woman who has used a whole lot of oil to fry akara (bean cakes) to pour all that oil away afterwards? In these economic times? The truth is, even if she wanted to do that for her health, the economic imperatives make it impossible! Do you know how much that oil cost? 😀
Okay, so what can we do? Re-using oil can be done safely. First, the focus is on oils that have a high smoking point. Smoking point, simply put, is the heat point at which the oil begins to smoke 😀 (Elementary, my dear Watson!). And so, oil that has smoked, is not good for use any more. In fact, you can consider smoking point to be that point at which oil goes from good to bad! At that point, the oil breaks down and forms free radicals that can cause cancer. Oils like peanut (groundnut) and Soya oils have high smoking points and do not break down easily.

So, you can re-use the oil provided it didn’t get to smoking point, it didn’t foam, change colour or develop a funny smell . To store the oil, let it cool, strain out all the food debris and then put in jars (glass, preferably) and refrigerate or freeze and use within one month. If food debris is left in the oil, it forms a rich culture medium for micro-organisms that can cause food poisoning to grow.

Finally, as much as practicable, try not to add salt to the food you wish to fry as salt lowers the smoking point of oils. And by the way, what’s with all the frying??? Grill, bake or roast 😉

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