There are a couple of things we need to get straight. First, some types of cooking oil should stay in the fryer. They might be great for making tasty french fries or fried chicken, but they lack the clean taste, durability, or healthfulness that would make them suitable candidates for other uses.
Just as importantly, many home cooks are tentative at best when exploring non-traditional uses for their favorite cooking oils. In recent years, there’s been a wealth of work done to expand our collective culinary horizons and find new uses for an old-school cooking aid. These five cottonseed cooking ideas are a case in point.
It should be no surprise that cottonseed oil—one of the original frying oils—would be a good fit for fried potatoes. But there are three big reasons why it’s particularly well-suited.
First, CSO has a longer usable life span than other cooking oils. That means that you can keep the same batch on hand through several frying sessions — reducing your expenses and stress levels. Cottonseed oil also tastes cleaner and more neutral than popular alternatives like peanut oil. That’s not to say peanut oil is bad, just that it leaves a recognizable imprint on your fries. And lastly, cottonseed oil has a favorable fat profile—heavy on the cholesterol-reducing polyunsaturated fats and light on the less-healthy saturated fats—that makes it a healthier alternative to certain cooking oils.
One of the fringe benefits of a light, neutral-tasting oil is durability. Since cottonseed oil doesn’t pick up the taste of the foods it’s used to cook, it’s a great medium for marathon frying sessions that require multiple ingredients. After you cook a batch of hash browns, for instance, you can use the same oil to fry up some chicken or fish. That’s great if you don’t want to stop and change your oil every time.
A Fish Fry in Your Own Home
Cottonseed oil is a great lubricant for born entertainers. Whether you’re a fan of catfish (Southern style) or whitefish (Northern style), the oil’s durability makes it easy to host a fish fry at your house—whether for a special occasion or just because it’s Friday night—without lugging home a trailer full of it. That’s good news, because born entertainers usually don’t like waiting on line at the local pub.
Powerful Flavor in a Pint-Sized Bottle
Oils with neutral tastes tend to bring out the flavors of the foods they season. Peanut oil is great if you’re making Thai-style satay or a delectable peanut sauce, but it’s not ideal for situations that call for bright, clear flavors. By contrast, cottonseed oil readily captures flavors and can easily be infused with recognizable seasonings—garlic, shallots, cilantro and chipotle, to name a few. It doesn’t have the market cornered on infused oils, of course, but it’s a superior medium next to heavy canola and pungent peanut.
It’s hard to beat the taste of extra-virgin olive oil in a fresh green salad. Unfortunately, high-quality olive oil is expensive and scarce. For many salad aficionados, cottonseed oil is the next best thing. It’s light and crisp, a key attribute of top-tier olive oil. It’s about as healthy, too, if you judge by its ratio of unsaturated to saturated fats. And it plays nicer on salads than heavier, stronger oils that tend to impart their own flavor and overwhelm delicate greens. So if you’re tired of—or just don’t have the budget for—olive oil, you know where to turn.
These are just a few of the uses for cottonseed oil. You’d probably be surprised to learn that your favorite culinary creations—from Cajun fritters to pan-fried meats—can be made to taste better by this particular cooking aid. So what’s a home chef to do? Well, that’s pretty obvious: Suit up and start cooking.