In order to avoid carcinogen formation, it is best to cook all your food below 160°C/ 320° F, especially if you have mutations in your Grilled/Charred Food Tolerance genes.
If you do cook at a higher heat though, it pays off to choose an oil that won’t burn or oxidize on you. This article outlines some of the best fats for higher-heat cooking based on four criteria: vitamin content, smoke point and fatty acid composition.
HOW TO DETERMINE THE BEST FATS FOR COOKING
Fats can be full of essential vitamins and antioxidants, but the source of the fat and how it’s manufactured make a big difference in the benefits of the end product. Fats that are overly processed or from shady sources can do far more harm than good.
When a fat or oil is heated past its smoke point, it will start to break down and release free radicals into your food. Once eaten, these free radicals can wreak havoc on your body and cause all kinds of inflammation and cellular damage. The fatty acid composition and stability of the fat can affect the smoke point of your oil, causing it to break down at higher or lower temperatures when exposed to heat, air, and light.
Nearly all edible fats are triglycerides, meaning they contain three fatty acids bound to a glycerol molecule. Those fatty acids determine how the triglyceride behaves, including its stability when exposed to the elements. Fatty acids can be destroyed by light, heat, and oxygen, and for that reason, when it comes to cooking with heat,saturated fats are the way to go. Saturated fats are very stable because their tails don’t have an opening where a free radical can grab an electron and oxidize the fat – the tails are already filled up (“saturated”). That’s not to say that monounsaturated (MUFA; one opening) and polyunsaturated (PUFA; many openings) fats are bad for you. These fats are very beneficial and should be a part of your kitchen arsenal too. Just be gentler with them so you don’t oxidize the more fragile MUFAs and PUFAs, and where possible don't heat them at all.
The fats below are some of the most nutrient-dense, heat-friendly options available.
1) GRASS-FED BUTTER OR GHEE
Butter is back. Creamy, smooth, and rich, grass-fed butter adds layers of flavor to any meal. And with far more nutrients than grain-fed butter, grass-fed is the clear winner. It is packed with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and vitamins K, vitamin D, and the active form of vitamin A. Butyrate is another power constituent of butter, that helps to feed the cells of your gut lining for a stronger and healthier digestive tract and microbiome. It even helps buffer ammonia overload, and as such can be a good adjunct to your protein meals.
Ghee is butter with the traces of dairy proteins and sugars removed, such as casein and lactose, and as such usually okay for people who are extra-sensitive to dairy. At high heat, ghee is more stable than butter because it doesn’t have any proteins or sugars that will burn. Ghee contains the same fat soluble vitamins as butter, but it may not be a good source of butyrate.
180°C/ 350° F for butter, 258°C/ 485° F for ghee
SFA: 51% MUFA: 21% PUFA: 3%
The majority of ghee’s fatty acids are saturated, making it a great choice for sautéing and searing at higher heat. It’s generally better to cook your food at below 350° F, but if you have to cook hotter than that, grass-fed ghee is the gold standard.
SOME THINGS TO KNOW:
If you live in North America, Kerrygold is an easy grass-fed butter to find. It’s cultured, meaning it has higher levels of butyrate and CLA.
Ghee works better in baked loaf recipes than butter does because ghee contains less water. Butter has a higher water content so it doesn’t hold burgers, meatballs, and loafs together as well.
Ghee blends into Bulletproof Coffee well and is a decent substitute for butter in most recipes, although it’s more oily than butter and may change the consistency of a dish slightly. If you do make Bulletproof Coffee with ghee, know that it won’t foam the way butter does so you won’t get that frothy latte top.
2) COCONUT OIL
Like butter, coconut oil once had a bad reputation due to it’s extraordinarily high concentration of saturated fat. Fortunately, we now know that there is no association between coconut oil (saturated fat) and heart disease. Coconut oil is loaded with lauric acid and MCTs.
180°C/ 350° F
SFA: 86% MUFA: 6% PUFA: 2%
Coconut oil is great for cooking because it is uncommonly high in saturated fat, and as such very stable.
SOME THINGS TO KNOW:
Choose extra virgin, organic coconut oil only. Virgin coconut oil has a more coconut taste, so if that’s what you like, go for it. If you want a lighter taste, expeller pressed is the way to go.
For a more complex taste and a spectacular nutrient profile, cook a dish with both coconut oil and ghee. There’s a reason the combination is so popular in Indian cuisine. The two fats compliment each other well, both in nutrition and flavor.
Coconut oil's lauric has been shown in numerous studies to inhibit viral, bacterial and fungal overgrowths.
3) AVOCADO OIL
Buttery avocado oil is chockablock in monounsaturated fat, the kind considered to be heart-healthy because of its powers to improve cholesterol numbers. This über fruit oil also supplies lutein, an antioxidant that improves eye health, and the white coats at Ohio State University determined that the oil can goose salad's potency by improving the absorption of fat-soluble antioxidants such as beta-carotene present in vegetables.
Best uses: With what is considered to be the highest smoke point of any plant oil, ultra-versatile avocado oil can be used for all your high-heat cooking needs such as grilling and pan-roasting. It's also stellar when added to salad dressings, as a garnish for soups like gazpacho, or drizzled over homemade pizza, crusty bread, or even slices of watermelon.
4) GRASS-FED BEEF TALLOW
Tallow is sort of like butter made of animal fat instead of milk fat. It’s solid at room temperature and densely nutritious. Surprise: grass-fed beef tallow beats out grain-fed beef tallow when it comes to nutrient profile. Grass-fed tallow also has a better omega 6:omega 3 ratio, although it’s very low in PUFAs so it isn’t a great source of either omega fatty acid. It’s also high in beneficial cholesterol.
SFA: 50.4% MUFA: 46.3% PUFA: 1.9%
Tallow is high in saturated fat and very low in PUFAs, making it particularly heat-stable. Its high smoke point makes it a great option for pan frying meat or veggies, especially if you don’t want the heavy taste of ghee or coconut oil in the dish. Tallow has a very mild flavor and it carries spices well. Give it a try if you haven’t; it’s a great cooking fat.
5) (NON-EXTRA-VIRGIN) OLIVE OIL
Olive oil is also high in Vitamins E and K and it brings serious benefits through oleocanthal and oleuropein, two anti-inflammatory and highly potent antioxidants. Studies show that oleuropein can prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing. The most prominent fatty acid in olive oil is oleic acid, which can reduce inflammation. Olive oil’s complex, peppery flavor adds depth to meat or seafood.
SFA: 14% MUFA: 73% PUFA: 11%
Olive oil is mostly MUFAs, so it’s important to treat it with care. Extra virgin olive oil should stay unheated, but normal olive oil that isn’t extra virgin is a good cooking oil as long as you aren’t cooking at high heat. Extra virgin olive oil is still great for you; just add it after you plate your food.
SOME THINGS TO KNOW:
Look for olive oil bottled in dark glass. Clear glass lets light in and the light causes oxidation.