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Coconut cooking oil is a fat-based cooking ingredient that comes from the fruit of the coconut tree, a tropical tree thought to originate in the South Pacific region. Since it is a solid, like a spread, at room temperature, it can be used in many similar ways as butter. It is a valued cooking ingredient in many parts of the world. It is thought to have some health benefits, but may also have health risks due to the high levels of saturated fat in the oil.
In the kitchen, coconut oil has both technical and flavor advantages over other types of oils. This type of oil is good for frying because it can be heated to higher temperatures than most other oils before the oil begins to smoke, making it a favorable choice for cooking steak in a pan. Using coconut cooking oil in the kitchen is a lot like using butter because this oil is solid at room temperature. Since it has a mild flavor, it can even be spread on toast with a little salt to taste. Coconut cooking oil is resistant to going rancid and has a long shelf life.
Coconut cooking oil is an essential ingredient in many dishes originating from all over the world, including Thailand, India, and Malaysia. It is used frequently in rice and rice salads, like the Thai black rice salad and Hawaiian coconut rice salad. Some dishes use coconut in addition to coconut cooking oil to give more coconut flavor to the dish.
The medical community has experienced continued debate as to whether coconut oil is healthy or unhealthy.Coconut cooking oil is high in saturated fat, but some health experts consider the main type of saturated fat in coconut oil, called medium-chain fat, to be less unhealthy than other saturated fats. This type of oil does contain some long-chain fats, which are generally known as bad fats.
For vegans, solid coconut cooking oil takes the place of butter in baking pie crusts and croissants that are intended to have a flaky texture. Coconut oil remains in a squishy, but solid, state at room temperature, so it can be used as a spread. This oil melts quickly at body temperature.
Coconut oil comes from the fruit of the tropical coconut tree. Producing coconut oil happens in a few different ways, the most common of which is to mechanically press dried coconut flakes to extract the oil from the meat of the coconut. A common home technique calls for pureeing and pressing coconut meat to extract the liquid, then resting the liquid to allow the oil to float to the top. Once the oil has separated from the liquid, it can be skimmed off for use in cooking.
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