Does your food taste greasy and leaves a lot of oil on your plate?
Are your pots and pans covered in a greasy residue even after you’ve cleaned them?
Does your extractor fan (the thing above the stove) look yellowed and needs a good clean?
Are you, my friend, using too much oil when you cook?
If you’ve answered yes to these questions then today’s post is for you. I’ll give you some tips on how you can use less oil and still get a good result.
1. Why do you think you need so much oil?
Is there a reason you think you need so much oil each time you cook? Is it because a recipe told you to use so much? Is it because you saw someone else do it? Do you think that’s just what you have to do?
I’m here to tell you that you can use a lot less oil than you thought – read the next question to see what I mean.
2. How much oil do you really need?
Many people like to deep fry their food, and that means cooking food submerged in oil (which is a whole other post for another day). What I’m talking about in today’s post is shallow frying, or your normal grilling or frying in a pan on the stove.
So when you grill your chicken, sauté your vegetables or cook a steak, how much oil are you using?
If you’re using non-stick pans (the ones with the black coatings on the inside) you don’t actually need as much oil as you might think. If you’re in Australia just imagine a 20c or 50c coin as you pour the oil because that’s all you really need (see the pic at the top of the post). If you’re from overseas that equates to about 1-2 tablespoons of oil only.
If you’re covering the bottom of the pan in oil then it’s WAY too much! Even covering half the pan is too much.
Of course, if you use the sticky pans (the ones without the non-stick coating) you’ll need more oil, but not heaps extra. If you’re new to cooking I’d recommend getting a non-stick frypan as it’s easier to use at the beginning. Just pop the sticky one in the cupboard for a few months.
3. What oil should you be using?
One of the issues you’re having could be the type of oil you’re using. Vegetable oils like canola and sunflower oil can be heated a lot higher than olive oil can be.
If you’re adding extra oil because you see smoke or the oil is starting to burn, then you’re probably using olive oil and the heat of the pan is too high (See the grilling tips post for tips on perfect grilling and frying. See the number 1 cooking mistake post for info on how hot your pan should be).
There’s nothing wrong with using olive oil (I use it for 90% of my cooking), it just needs to be used at high temperatures for short periods of time only – so turn the heat down once you’ve browned the outside of the food. High cooking for longer should be done with oils like canola and vegetable oil.
Other oils like avocado and walnut oils are best left for salads. Sesame oil is good for cooking too especially for stir fries.
4. Does moving the food around more need more oil?
It shouldn’t, because when you move the food around you’re moving the oil around too and coating everything evenly – such as when you stir fry.
However, there might be times when you notice that food is sticking to the bottom of the pan and won’t move nicely. There’s 2 reasons for this: one is not enough oil (but you’re reading this cause you use too much oil so I don’t think that’s the reason). The other is that the surface of the food hasn’t cooked enough yet for it to be moved.
Does that make sense? If not, let me explain. Some foods can attach to the surface of the pan but will detach themselves once they’re cooked enough. I tend to find this happens when the pan isn’t hot enough or with chicken and white fish in particular. The easiest fix is not to move the food in the first 1-2 mins of cooking (or longer if it’s a thick piece of food). This also happens a lot when you aren’t using non-stick pans.
5. What are some tips for using less oil?
The best way to use less oil is to coat your protein in oil before you put it into the pan. Just sprinkle salt, pepper and a drizzle of oil over the meat/chicken/fish and rub it in with your fingers – then throw into a pre heated pan. The meat will be more evenly coated in oil so you’ll need less.
6. Are there any alternatives to using oil?
Yes! You could use a few splashes of water or stock instead of oil. Both will evaporate quickly if the heat is high, and you might need to adjust the balance of flavour, but it is possible to use water instead of oil when grilling.
Another option is to cook using your sandwich press. It’s essentially 2 fry pans stuck together and you don’t need to use any oil. Check out my sandwich press post for tips on cooking burger patties, kebabs and other foods on the sandwich press.
A third option you have is to oven bake your meals. Chicken, fish and meat can be cooked in the oven quite easily. You can cook them as dishes such as casseroles and stews or bake a whole piece (roast chicken, roast beef, etc). You can even roast a whole salmon or fish too.
The best option with oven cooking is to cook food with bones in it like a whole chicken, chicken drumsticks, a rack of lamb, etc. These foods like a longer cooking time because they need to cook all the way through to the bone. Fillets of fish, steaks and chicken breasts can be cooked in the oven but don’t need a lot of time – they can dry out quickly. Check them after 10 mins or they could be overcooked.
So hopefully from these tips you realise now that you don’t need as much oil as you thought you did. It can be hard switching from always using a lot to using less, but just drop it back a little each time you cook and in a couple of weeks you’ll be where you want to be. And if nothing else works, think about how much money you’ll save by having to buy less oil in the first place!