On paper, nothing seems easier than whipping up a batch of movie-style popcorn. You just add the kernels in your popcorn maker, fill the special socket with butter and let the machine take it from there. But simple instructions aside, there is something slightly concerning about this process, and that’s the heaps of fat that lurk inside the butter.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on popcorn ’cause… cooking oils. This versatile food can readily replace your fat-laden butter sticks while adding tons of flavor to the mix and keeping the popped kernels moist enough for you to chew.
The only problem? Not all cooking oils are created equal. While some can handle the heat, others don’t fare so well, ruining the snack’s taste and sinking its nutrition content to a new low. If you want to avoid all that and be able to enjoy a batch of healthy popcorn every time, these five cooking oils are a great place to start. So, let the popping begin!
Smoke Points -The Need-to-Know
Also known as burning or flash point, the smoke point(1) of an oil is the temperature at which it starts breaking down and produces a continuous bluish smoke that is visible to the naked eye. Contrary to popular belief, this aspect has nothing to do with the oil’s boiling point as the fatty liquid begins to smoke well before it reaches the optimum boiling temp.
As you probably know, there are different types of oils, all of which feature their own unique smoke points. For example, canola oil starts smoking at about 435oF while flaxseed oil is a tad more tricky to use with a burning point of just 225oF. These fluctuations depend on a variety of factors such as volume and acidity.
But, the real question is: Why on earth should you care about the flash point of the cooking oil you use? According to experts(2), once this food is heated, its particles start breaking down, causing it to produce a foul odor and increasing its toxin content. That basically means that the nutrient makeup of any oil is likely to take a huge nosedive once it’s heated past the smoke point. As a result, heating oil based on its unique flash point is the best way to prevent toxins from building up and making.
5 Cooking Oils Perfect For Popping Corn
Well, now you know; being aware of an oil’s burning point is the key to healthy-ish popcorn. With that in mind, it’s high time you chose the best oils for the job and finally get rid of all the trans fats that come with every popping sesh.
A staple in budget-friendly pantries, canola oil can do so much more than just save you a pretty penny. This popular type of oil is rich in essential fatty acids(3) such as linoleic acid (omega 6) and alpha-linoleic acid (omega-3), which the human body can’t produce on its own.
That said, using canola oil to pop your corn is a great way to sneak a generous amount of these heart-boosting nutrients into your body without so much as a sweat. But, canola oil’s benefits don’t end there. Sporting a high smoke point (435oF), this cooking staple is perfect for high-heat pan frying, a.k.a. popping corn.
Chances are you are no stranger to coconut oil. This delicious food comes in both refined and extra virgin options which either add a coconutty flavor to the mix or keep your meals as neutral as possible. Compared to other oils, this one also has a fairly low smoke point (350oF), but don’t let that stop you from using it for popping corn. It can actually withstand some seriously high heat which is always the case when you are popping those kernels.
Also, note that it’s packed with heart-friendly fats which -according to experts(4)- may help improve your cardiovascular health. One study(5) also links coconut oil to abdominal fat loss, especially in women. So, there you have it; a tasty and healthy way to enjoy your favorite snack.
Oh, the all-mighty olive oil. This kitchen all-star is one of the most common household oils, and while it’s most flavorful in its raw, uncooked form, it can sure take your high-heat cooking to the next level. But, that’s just one of the reasons olive oil is a top choice for popping corn.
The favorite food is also packed with monounsaturated fats(6), a.k.a. the healthy kind of fats, and phytochemicals(7) which serve as powerful antioxidants. That said, olive oil(8) is linked to low cholesterol levels and cancer prevention. In some cases, it’s even referred to as an appetite suppressant(9) which means it can be an effective way to prevent diabetes. Talk about an easy way to healthify your popcorn, right?
With a smoke point of 440oF, sunflower oil is one of the easiest ways to pop corn. This underrated variety also coats the kernels with a slightly nutty flavor, making them a tad more exotic. The best part about using this cooking oil? It’s known for having a preservative effective on any kind of food which means it can keep your popcorn fresh for longer.
Sure, this type of oil is on the pricier side, but let us tell you that it’s totally worth the splurge, and not just from a culinary point of view. You see, avocado oil is packed with healthy fats(10) which help your body get rid of all the harmful toxins and, thus, work more efficiently. It also has a relatively high smoke point (375-400oF) and a butter-like flavor which make it the perfect option for a batch of movie-worthy popcorn.
From affordable options like canola and olive oil to gourmet variants such as avocado oil, the sky’s the limit when it comes to choosing a healthy way to pop your kernels. So, depending on your taste buds and health goals, these five cooking oils can help you enjoy your favorite snack guilt-free. So, which one is it gonna be?