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Will this fat make me fat?

Grace Kerfoot

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Grace Kerfoot, Food Columnist, discusses fats and how individuals can use them in the right way.

America has a fat problem with understanding fats.

Granted, every day, science and the media tell us something new or contradicting about how fats affect our health. We’ve gone from spreading butter on toast, to margarine, to coconut oil, and back to butter.

We seem to be so desperate for optimal health that we mindlessly eat anything as long as some study says that it is good for us. Yet our waistlines continue to expand, and our arteries continue to narrow. What gives?

We all have our how and why theories about the health status of the average American, myself included. But I am not going to preach to you about the hierarchy of fats or rant about the food industry. We are all adults and can make our own educated decisions on what to put into our bodies.

I think many people shy away from cooking with fats — and oils — because they do not understand them. Fats are not added to recipes with the intent of making you obese. They are there to impart flavor.

But let me make one thing clear: I am talking about natural fats. Processed trans fats are not the key ingredients to great cooking. Go ahead and throw out your margarine and Crisco right now because they are flavorless, and no one deserves a mouthful of chemicals.

In fact, let’s go forward with this rule of thumb — if you wouldn’t eat it spread on toast, don’t cook with it.

I think even more than moderation, we should use common sense and let our taste buds be our guide. Fats add a unique mouth feeling. They add and extend flavor and even help with satiety and the absorption of nutrients. They are really not so evil after all.

So the next time you get cooking, worry less about your waistline and consider instead the integrity of your food. Use fat to elevate and enhance your cooking skills. By following these tips, you’ll gain more confidence in the kitchen and produce better-tasting meals.

 

Basic Tips for Cooking with Fats and Oils:

· Proper storage: Make sure to store your cooking oils in a cool, dark place. If they go rancid, they will make your food taste bad. Nobody wants that.

· Smoke points: When oil reaches its smoke point, there is an unfavorable change in chemical structure. High smoke point oils such as grapeseed, coconut and safflower are great for high-heat cooking like frying. Low smoke point oils like olive, and butter, are better for low-heat sautéing and adding to sauces.

· Splurge on a good olive oil: A bottle of high-quality extra virgin olive oil (not the stuff that comes in a big plastic jug) is a must in the kitchen. Its spicy, buttery flavor is a welcome garnish on anything from pasta to soups. Use a more generic brand for cooking.

· Go unsalted: You can always add salt to a dish, but you cannot take it away. Buying unsalted butter will allow you to be more in control of your cooking.

· Invest in some hard cheese: The beautiful thing about hard cheeses, like Parmesan and Asiago, is that they keep forever in your fridge and always come in handy when you need them.

Hard cheeses have more concentrated flavor because of their higher fat and salt content compared to soft cheeses. You only need a few shavings to add a final umami bomb to anything you cook.

Grace Kerfoot can be reached at [email protected] or @gracekerf on Twitter.

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Will this fat make me fat?