I was feeling confident about my culinary expertise when something as simple as cooking oil humbled me.
In my defense, it was not my kitchen, so I was using an unfamiliar pan, range, and ingredients. I was at my daughter’s house where my wife and I were staying with a couple of granddaughters while their mom gave birth to number three.
I brought a small ribeye steak with me for supper the first night. At home I would just throw it on the grill. No grill here, so I got ready to pan fry it. At home I would reach for my cast iron frying pan. My daughter had a very nice set of stainless steel cookware. A pan’s a pan, right?
I let it warm up on medium heat while I ground a little salt and pepper onto the meat. Holding my hand over the pan, I could tell it was ready. I grabbed the non-stick spray from the cabinet and gave the pan a quick shot. Even though I quickly took it off the burner, a cloud of smoke filled the kitchen. I turned on the fan only to discover it wasn’t vented to the outside. The smoke alarms started beeping, my wife open the sliding glass door to the backyard and tried to fan the bad smoke out and the good air in. The oldest granddaughter asked, “What are you doing, grandpa?”
It looked like I had no idea what I was doing. I did recover and the steak tasted great. The pan was a pain to clean. I had much to learn about cooking with oil.
I did some quick research online. If I’m are cooking at high temperatures, refined avocado, safflower, and light olive oil work well. At medium temperatures, use corn, coconut, sunflower, and canola oil. Vegetable shortening, extra virgin olive oil, and butter are for lower temperatures. I’ve got a lot to learn, though. Some of those oils taste better certain sauces, marinades, and dressings than others.
For the next two days, the odor of burning oil greeted my nose every time I walked into their house. However, as we packed up to leave today, the smell was just about all gone. Whew.
3 thoughts on “Where there’s smoke: Pay attention to the cooking oil you use”
This made me smile. When, I moved from New England to Colorado, I had to relearn to cook because of the elevation and a natural gas stove.
I had to make the opposite transition. I loved natural gas when I lived in the northeast, then switched to electric when I moved south.