Working with Coconut Oil
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Young coconuts are large, green, and water-heavy. (Of course, by the time we see them in this country, the outer green shell has been shaved.) As a coconut matures, it becomes wizened, brown and hairy. The gel-like meat within becomes thicker and meatier. Coconut water is the sweet liquid inside the immature coconuts.
Young Coconuts on the Tree
Coconut milk is made from the pressed juice of grated coconut meat and water; coconut oil is the fatty oil that comes from the coconut meat.
Oil Comes from the Mature Coconut
The oil, which used to have a bad reputation in this country, is now finally getting the attention it deserves for not only being a nutritional powerhouse, but for its versatility in the kitchen. I have used coconut oil consistently for 12 years with great results.
Coconut oil comes in two varieties: virgin, which has the flavor of a coconut, and a filtered variety which is neutral-tasting.
Virgin and Filtered Coconut OIl
While I love the virgin coconut oil – and I use it frequently – there are many instances when I don’t want what I’m making to taste like a Thai dish. When I want the perfect oil to cook potato pancakes, for instance, I reach for the filtered no-taste variety. This product still has all of the nutritional benefits of coconut oil without the predominant coconut flavor. The flavor is removed in a vacuum process. Coconut and the oil come from tropical countries where they are exposed to high tropical temperatures. The oil can take the heat necessary to distill it and remove the coconut flavor without affecting the quality. There’s no trans fat byproducts either, so you don’t have to worry that you’re compromising your health.
I love the oil from www.omeganutrition.com. I was first introduced to their products 12 years ago; they have the best filtered coconut oil that I’ve ever tasted.That’s the oil that hooked me from the start. Their other products are of the highest quality as well so you won’t go wrong with whatever you order. They ship fast so you’ll get your products within just a few days.
You can order the oil in all different sizes, from a 1 pound canister to a 7-pound pail (my favorite). You don’t have to worry that the coconut oil will go bad, because even after you open the jug, it lasts two years at room temperature!
1-pound, 2-pound, and 7-pound Containers
At room temperature, coconut oil is semi-solid. It melts at 76 degrees, so if your pantry is warm, you may notice how the consistency changes. This is not a problem. It can melt and solidify back and forth without damaging the oil in the least.
If you’re baking with coconut oil, and converting from butter to coconut oil, use 7 tablespoons coconut oil instead of 1 stick butter. Butter contains 20 per cent water, so you need to lessen the oil a bit. The easiest way to measure 7 tablespoons is to scoop ½ cup into a dry measure and then remove 1 tablespoon.
7 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
Measure coconut oil in the form that you need it in. For example, say you’re making a cookie and you are going to cream the oil with sugar. You will need the oil in its semi-solid state, so measure it that way, right out of the container. If you need it in liquid form, melt some coconut oil (it only takes a minute or two to melt) in a pan over a low flame and then measure it. If you want to work coconut oil into a pastry crust and you need it super firm, place a glob in the refrigerator to harden it.
Refrigerator-hardened Coconut Oil
I chop the hardened coconut oil first on a cutting board, then place the pieces in measuring cups.
Measured Oil for a Pastry Crust
I pulse the oil into the dry ingredients in a food processor. There’s an easy and delicious coconut oil pastry crust recipe on p. 51 in my book The Healthy Hedonist Holidays.
When you need a tablespoon or two to sauté something, it really doesn’t matter what form it’s in. Just scoop some oil out of the container and it will melt in the skillet quite readily. It’s only necessary to be exact with the measurements when you are baking.
It’s best to have the other ingredients at room temperature before mixing with the coconut oil. Otherwise the oil will start to seize and you’ll have little clumps of hardened oil in your mix.
Bits of Coconut Oil Because of Cold Ingredients
A quick whirl in the blender will take care of any hardened bits. If your marinade looks like the following picture, just place the pan in the oven. A few seconds in the oven will melt the coconut oil just fine.
The Ingredients Were Cold
You can also place your ingredients over a double boiler and gently heat the mix. It doesn’t take long for everything to get up to 76˚F., the melting point of coconut oil.
Coconut oil has a high smoke point, up to 375˚F., so this is the ideal oil for frying. This is a when I use the filtered variety. Food cooked with coconut oil does not taste greasy. Hands down this is THE best oil for making potato pancakes, cutlets, croquettes, falafel, or anything that needs a good amount of oil.
Crispy Miniature Potato Pancakes
These are crispy, not greasy.
Crispy Rice Noodles Fried in Coconut Oil
I don’t like to waste the oil, however, so I just put enough oil to go halfway up the side of whatever I am cooking. That’s enough to cook the first half, and I then just flip what I am cooking to finish the other side.
The virgin oil is the best choice when you want a hint of tropical flavor. It makes buttery-tasting popcorn, stellar roasted vegetables, and creamy root vegetable purées. One of my vegetable combinations at the moment is puréed parsnips mixed with rutabagas or kohlrabi, enriched with virgin coconut oil and butter. Talk about a creamy, satisfying texture! The virgin oil makes a tasty spread on crackers, bread, muffins, and mocha as well.
The flavorful virgin oil is also the better choice if you want to utilize the oil as a supplement to stabilize your blood sugar and keep your metabolism humming at high speed.
Topically, you can use it as a moisturizer on your face and all over the body. Try slathering your entire body with the oil BEFORE taking a shower. You’ll come out of the shower already clean and soft – not greasy – without having to use soap or moisturizer.
You can also work coconut oil into a blend. Inspired by Mary Enig’s blend of oils, I mix 1/3 extra virgin olive oil (or macadamia nut oil for a really subtle flavor), 1/3 part unrefined sesame oil (NOT the toasted variety), and 1/3 part coconut oil. (I use the filtered here for the most neutral flavor.) The resulting oil is mild-tasting and has a combination of healthful properties from all three oils. You can keep this at room temperature and use it for sautéing and dressings. AND – this is my favorite part – it is a great oil for homemade mayonnaise. Deviled eggs, anyone? We’ll save that for another day.