When the wife and I switched to real foods, one of the first things we did was chuck our vegetable oil, aka The Oil of Death.
Then, when dinnertime came around, in our naiveté about real foods, we kinda looked at each other and said “How do we cook stuff now?”
Such a sad comment on our society – veggie oil is so ubiquitous that we don’t know how to cook with other fats 🙁
After a few days of grilled cheese sandwiches, we determined that we probably oughtta do some research to learn how to cook stuff without going through all the butter in the world.
The truth is that not only does fat not contribute to health disease, diabetes, and obesity, but it’s actually a great source of important nutrients! Here’s the complete argument explaining why fats are essential to great health.
Here’s what we use now for fats!
Coconut oil is pretty much the best.
If you don’t like the coconut taste, you can opt for a refined version, although it’s slightly less healthy.
Where to buy it: We’ve always bought the Nutiva brand at Costco – it’s cheap, unrefined, and organic. We’re always on the lookout, and have never found a better price… if you know of one, please tell us!
Or buy it on Amazon if you don’t want to go to Costco. Yeah the Amazon links are affiliate links if you’re wondering. 😉
How to use it: You can deep fry with coconut oil (most recommend using the refined version for true deep frying), melt it and use for baking (like brownie batters), and also just straight up in smoothies or melted down in a warm liquid!
2. Pastured Butter
Did you know that the only reason we think butter is bad is that margarine companies taught us it was?
Sally Fallon (of the Weston A. Price Foundation) states that pregnant and nursing moms should be eating 4 tablespoons of butter a day… I mean, if eating ¼ C of butter a day doesn’t bring a smile to your face, I don’t know what to tell you.
Pastured butter is one of the more nutrient dense foods we have and far superior to regular ol’ butter (but even that stuff is WAY better than pseudo-food margarine).
Where to buy it: We usually buy the Organic Valley brand at our local Walmart (that’s the cheapest at $5.50/pound!) or Kerrygold brand at our local whole foods store Good Earth.
How to use it: How do you NOT use butter? Basically, if I have to tell you how to use butter, you’re not a real person.
Olive oil is one of the few oils that is actually good for you (a good rule of thumb – olives don’t have to be heavily processed to get oil from them, you could squish it and get oil… On the other hand, a cottonseed or rapeseed has to be highly processed to turn into a liquid).
Where to Buy It: We’ve been buying Kirkland Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It’s got all the health stuff you’d want, plus it’s pretty cheap. The lesson as always: Costco’s the best.
Or buy it on Amazon.
How to Use It: Olive oil is great for very low heating, or even without heating. For example, dipping your bread in it or putting it on a salad is fantastic.
High heat can damage olive oil, releasing free radicals which harm your body. Stick with the low temp stuff here.
4. Homemade Butter
Nothing says hippie/natural eating/Amish like making your own butter from cream you siphoned off your raw milk! You’re not legit until you do this 🙂 In fact, Erin was so curious as to how to do this that she went out and bought our first gallon of raw milk just so she can try and make butter.
Anyway, pastured butter can be expensive, so making a bit of your own can save you a few bucks here and there – plus you can make it with your stand mixer!
How to Make It: Check out this cool video on making butter! (Still in the making come back later)
How to Use It: Welp… pretty much like regular butter.
Tallow, deliciously enough, is liquefied beef fat!
Ok, it sounds a little gross because you’re probably imagining all your stuff tasting like liquid cow… but it’s actually pretty good. In fact, McDonalds used to cook their near-sacred french fries in beef tallow.
How to Make It: First step is to get a hunk of beef fat (called suet), ideally from a pasture-fed cow. Some places will conveniently grind it up for you (which saves TONS of time), but if they don’t, you’ll need to cut it into small pieces. You should trim off anything that isn’t fat as well (sometimes you’ll get a hunk with a bunch of meat or connective tissue still attached). We buy ours from local farms.
The next, very lovely, step is to render it in your crockpot. Yes, it smells terrible, and yes, it takes a while. The fat will liquefy, and the meat bits will be left behind – usually taking overnight to a full day to get it done.
Let it cool, strain with a fine mesh, and store in the fridge!
We recently found the coolest way to store tallow, and will never do it another way:
Plus, it opens up all sorts of possibilities for tricking people into eating “white fudge.”
How to Use It: You can use this for deep frying or pan frying. We use tallow frequently for all types of potatoes, but also works great with frying corn tortilla chips, making stir-fry, or scrambling eggs. If we use it to deep fry food like fries we strain the tallow and put it back in the jar if we have a lot of access.
Now this oil is a new one that we haven’t tried out yet but it’s starting to pop up on my radar. One thing that I find awesome about avocado oil is that it’s smoke point is ridiculously high. Like around 500 degrees high. Once an oil goes past it’s smoke point the flavor starts to change and it starts to degenerate and cause nasty free radicals.
One study of avocado oil has shown that it increases collagen synthesis and has anti-inflammatory properties. Another study has also shown that avocado oil has anti-aging, heart disease, and cancer fighting properties.
Where to Buy It: Again Costco seems to be the place to go. It really makes me happy that they are providing such good products!
Or get it on Amazon.
How to Use It: Basically “anyway you want it, that’s the way you need it, anyway you want it!” (Sorry Journey just popped into my head when I was writing that.)
Lard is basically the pig version of tallow! It’s easy to buy crappy replacements for this in the store (Crisco, anyone?) but it’s seriously harmful to you. Definitely get the real thing from a butcher.
The best is to purchase lard that came from foraged pigs – animals that get to eat what they’re supposed to are MUCH healthier, and pass the nutrition on to us.
Lard has a milder flavor than tallow and is great for things like pie crusts, biscuits, and pastries – basically things that you don’t really want a beef flavor in.
You can deep fry with it (a common recipe among real foodies is fried chicken in lard) as well.
How to Make It: See tallow above.
How to Use It: I need to be honest here – I’ve never used lard. We have a great source for suet, so we usually stick to tallow. It’s definitely a great fat for deep frying.
If you’ve ever tried to deep fry with butter (or just heated up a pan with butter in it for too long), you’ll notice that it burns fairly easily. This is because the milk solids in the butter burn at low temperatures.
However, you can cook the milk solids out of butter, giving you something to deep fry with! This sounds like something America would love… “Wait, we can deep fry with butter now? ‘merica!”
Yes, yes you can.
How to Make It: Similar to lard and tallow, dump a bunch of butter in a crock pot. Preferably you’d use pastured butter, but I understand that making a quart of ghee can set you back a mortgage payment or two.
Turn your crock pot on low, and cook it until the dark brown solids have separated and formed at the top. Strain these out with a fine mesh or cheese cloth, pour into mason jars, and store in the fridge.
I’ve read differing reports about storing tallow, lard, and ghee in your pantry or the fridge, but it seems to last longer for us in the fridge.
I won’t bother telling you to buy it because if you’re already buying pastured butter there’s no reason to buy ghee too!
How to Use It: Really, if you’re deep frying, and you want a buttery flavor (I mean, when wouldn’t you want a buttery flavor?) use ghee! It’s also great for simple pan frying. I love it for hash browns.
Hopefully, this helps take your cooking to a new level of delicious – and helps you find healthier substitutes to common cooking fats.
What other healthy cooking oils and fats do you use?