Is it a good idea to use peanut oil for frying? What are the benefits of using peanut oil in your recipes? Find out here!
Did you know that some prominent restaurant chains - and almost all Chinese restaurants in the US - use peanut oil for frying? That might come as a surprise - but there are very good reasons for this!
Peanut oil is perfect for cooking at high temperatures because - unlike less healthy oils such as lard and shortening - it is high in monounsaturated fat and low in saturated fat. Monounsaturated fat (MUFA) is good for you because it helps lower the levels of cholesterol in your body.
Peanut oil also contains lots of the antioxidant Vitamin E, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. In fact, just one tablespoon of peanut oil provides 11% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin E!
Another good reason for using peanut oil for frying is that it has a high smoke point. The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil starts producing smoke when it's heated.
Frying obviously involves using a lot of heat, so the best oils for frying are those with a high smoke point. Once a fat has started smoking during cooking, it is actually breaking down and has started producing the substance that makes foods taste and smell burnt - the exact opposite to what we're trying to achieve!
Peanut oil varieties
Peanut oil itself generally has a very neutral flavor - but this can vary quite a bit depending on the kind of peanut oil that you buy.
Refined peanut oil is the type most commonly used by restaurants. It goes through a fair bit of processing to remove the allergenic parts of the oil and - unfortunately - much of the oil's goodness too. Refined peanut oil is usually safe for people with peanut allergies.
Cold pressed or virgin peanut oil is less widely used but much better for you. The oil is produced by crushing the peanuts instead of processing them with heat. This results in an oil that is more nutritious and also has a stronger peanut flavor.
Roasted or gourmet peanut oil is an unrefined specialty product, with a rich, deep, nutty flavor. It is golden brown in color but less suitable for frying than other peanut oil varieties.
You might also come across peanut oil blends. Just as with olive oil blends, this is where the peanut oil is mixed with a cheaper oil, making it more affordable to buy.
Ideas for cooking with peanut oil
Try using peanut oil for sautéing. If you choose an unrefined version, it will add a delicious flavor too.
Use roasted or gourmet peanut oil for flavoring foods instead of frying them. You can just drizzle it over a finished dish, or mix it into sauces and marinades.
How to store peanut oil
Unopened peanut oil can be safely stored in a cool, dark place for one to two years. Once it has been opened, it will last for up to 6 months.
You can reuse peanut oil that you've cooked with, as long as you take care to remove any pieces of food first. Keep it in the fridge to maintain its freshness.