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Chinese food cooking question...what kind of oil?

  • j
  • jenn Aug 22, 2006 07:28 PM
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Not sure if I should post here or on the China Board but what the heck.

The question is what type of oil? In my home cooking, I generally use peanut oil which I buy in large containers from the 99 ranch. But is that really what is authentically used in China or are they using something less expensive?

inquiring minds want to know!

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  1. I don't know about China, but in the Chinese restaurant kitchens I've been in (one I worked in, and two belonging to uncles), peanut was the oil of choice.

    1. Definitely peanut oil. It has a high smoking point, which is a must for commercial Chinese cooking.

      At home, I'm not sure most stoves get hot enough to even really take advantage of peanut's high smoke point. I found it to be a little too peanuty tasting for me. I use grapeseed oil, which has a pleasant but neutral (does that make sense?) flavor and also a high smoke point.

      1. I love using peanut oil, but my step-son has a nut allgery (I know that the peanut isn't a nut, but like most people with nut allergies, he is also allergic to peanuts) so I can't often use it.

        However, one thing you shouldn't get cheap about is oil. You use a relatively small amount and it makes a huge difference in cooking in every way. However, if you're going to buy it in big amounts, make sure you use a lot of it because oil does go rancid.

        3 Replies
        1. re: bdumes

          Because peanut allergy and the cost, very few chinese restaurants use peanut oil. Most of them use soy oil or some sort of vegetable oil. It is cheap, flavorless and has a high smoking point.

          1. re: PBSF

            I've seen some restaurants using corn oil (Mazola) because it is cheap. I prefer the flavor of peanut oil and that is what I use at home

            1. re: PBSF

              I am getting conflicting replies about the use of peanut oil in China. I have an allergic reaction to peanut oil. How do you know that few Chinese restaurants (in China) use peanut oil? I've been told that many of these restaurants spray their cookware with it.

          2. I use peanut oil too, haven't noticed it adds any taste of its own to the food.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cheryl_h

              some cheaper, highly refined peanut oils don't have much peanut flavor...if any. On the other hand, the most expensive ones have too much peanut flavor, imo. It takes some trail and error find a the right balance of flavor/price...or dilute some of the powerful stuff with a neutral oil.

              Anyway, if you're doing it right, standard veg oil can give you plenty of flavor (see my above post).

            2. Have you tried sesame oil?

              5 Replies
              1. re: OCAnn

                Sesame oil has a very low smoking point. It is not use in cooking but as a flavoring oil.

                1. re: PBSF

                  Sesame oil is also too strongly flavored to be used in cooking, unless you're cooking something you want to taste like sesame.

                  1. re: Pei

                    Sesame oil is not used for cooking like that. Its used more like pepper to bring the flavors out right before the dish is served.

                  2. re: PBSF

                    Yes, this is what I meant. Add peanut oil to the cooking oil for infused flavour.

                  3. re: OCAnn

                    Just a note on sesame oil - There is a blend of sesame/soy bean oil that can be used for cooking. The flavor is lighter than the full sesame and is very good in stir fry dishes.

                  4. Not sure on the exact spelling and it's not authentic, but we like to use Wokin' N' Tossin' Oil... it's got a little bit of a chili kick, garlic, a little sesame oil, but I think it's mostly peanut oil.

                    1. chinese peanut oil is usually used in traditional cooking, but it can be expensive here in the united states, so i don't know many people who use peanut oil. chinese peanut oil is different from american peanut oil.

                      sesame oil is far too expensive and too flavorful to cook with. its usually flavoring, and only a dot or two is necessary

                      my family (huge on traditional cantonese food) uses corn oil, mazola brand only. this is the type of oil i see in other family members kitchen, sometimes not necessarily mazola brand, but majority is. my mother said corn oil is more flavorful than many of the other oils, it doesn't make your house smell as much (like peanut oil), the oil aromas/smoke don't drift through your house as much, and doesn't coat the walls as much (stoves here are against a painted wall usually, and we cook so much chinese food, that our entire wall and cabinets are saran wraped because the sheen of oil is absolutely disgusting and then we put cardboard up when we cook so that it doesn't stick as much, but we still have a huge layer of oil on our stove wall. she also said peanut oil sticks to your exhaust vents and wears them down quicker.

                      1. I use peanut oil, which I buy in large containers at the Super 88 (Boston 99 Ranch equivalent). It's not really expensive if you buy in quantity, and I kind of like the peanutty taste. It is true that it can go rancid if you're not using a lot, but I keep the can in the fridge and decant small amounts into a cruet, and haven't had any trouble. And one of these times, dangit, I'm going to get around to deep-frying.

                        1. I purchased a Big Kahuna burner to do wok cooking on so
                          I decided to buy some peanut oil in bulk. I bought a 4.6
                          gallon container of peanut oil from Sam's club. Worked
                          out to be $ 6.30 a gallon. Peanut oil at the grocery was
                          $ 4.55 for a pint and a half.

                          1. I find peanut oil gives me gas. I like to use canola oil. I don't believe in using olive oil because it ruins the taste of chinese food. You want something neutral.

                            1. I would really suggest you finish your dish off with sesame oil. Unlike other seed/nut oils, sesame oil is wonderfully fragrant. Just a whiff of the stuff reminds me of Chinese food every time.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: phan1

                                I try not to use sesame oil because, it's so strong, it has a tendency to make every dish taste similar...it can become a bit of a crutch.

                                I'd never use it in, lets say, a dish in which I have black bean paste because it's just not necessary and would "muddy up" the dish.

                                Lately, I've only been using sesame oil in chow mein.

                              2. For nearly 35 years, the only oil I've seen in my (Chinese) parents' kitchen was Mazola Corn Oil. And the results were always heaven.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: gloriousfood

                                  Yeah, there's no need to overthink this. My mom always used whatever neutral oil was on sale at the store. I use grapeseed oil now but it hasn't made my Chinese cooking any better.

                                  i really don't like peanut oil, for anything. To me there is definitely a strong peanut odor that interferes with the flavor of the dish.

                                2. This blog is like 3 years old but I'll post anyway I guess. From what I read, the traditional oil that most of Asia uses is Rice Bran Oil. Does anyone know if this is true?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Caesar9

                                    Don't know about most of Asia. It's popular in Japan, especially for deep-frying.

                                    Take this with a grain of salt but a few years ago, I did some reading on the positive associations between risk of lung cancer among Chinese home and professional cooks and exposure to volatile emissions from the heated cooking oils used in stir-frying. As I recall, the oils most often discussed were peanut, safflower, soya and rapeseed, with unrefined Chinese rapeseed oil being considered the most potentially dangerous if used in an insufficiently ventilated kitchen. I don't recall reading any references to rice bran oil, which would imply that it's not -- or wasn't -- widely used, at least among the groups studied.

                                  2. Peanut oil is my choice for all chinese cooking. Sesame oil is very strong and only used for flavouring, not for actual cooking/frying. I am part Chinese on my mum's side, my mum uses either peanut or vegetable oil (and a lot less than I do, I think when you get old you get really health conscious!)

                                    1. Since this thread appears to be revived, another vote for peanut oil. Oils, actually. A neutral and affordable local brand (Tousain Finesse) for most cooking. Pricier Lion & Globe from Hong Kong when I want some real peanut flavour.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: carswell

                                        I bought some of that Lion Globe and, although an excellent product, I thought it was way too peanuty tasting to be used straight as cooking oil...the intense flavor needs to be diluted with a neutral flavored oil. In fact, it's so strong, it could be used as a seasoning after cooking (like sesame oil).

                                        1. re: jahogna

                                          I use Lion & Globe exclusively for stir frying. The peanut smell/flavor does not come through in the food.

                                          1. re: emily

                                            That's what I use too. It's not overtly peanutty at all when cooked. But I find it goes rancid faster than other oils.

                                            Lion and Globe also makes a peanut canola blend if one is concerned about the taste or the price.

                                          2. re: jahogna

                                            I just bought some more Lion Globe peanut oil and it's not nearly a strong a peanut flavor as my last bottle. Don't know if they are refining it more now or the flavor consistency just varies...all I know is I made some 5 spice shrimp with it tonight and it turned out absolutely delicious.

                                            Anyway, keep it in the fridge and it'll keep from going rancid (or, rather, you'll use it up before that).

                                        2. Don't forget about lard LOL !

                                          1. i read every post and learned alot..thanks.

                                            1. Groundnut oil - Peanut Oil
                                              grapeseed oil
                                              mazola corn oil
                                              Sesame Oil ( not for stir fry)
                                              Vegetable Oil
                                              Canola oil

                                              1. We have one excellent chinese (szechuan) restaurant nearby...and many very bad ones. By their trash, I saw they use standard vegetable oil...which makes sense, considering peanut oil is relatively expensive.

                                                For a home cook, quality peanut oil is an option for flavor development (although the "extra virgin" stuff is so strong, it needs diluting...or, like sesame oil, used as seasoning). However, restaurants don't need it because they deal in such volume, their re-used vegetable fry oil is saturated with it's own wonderfully unique flavor.

                                                Try deep-frying meat or fish and asian spices in about 2 cups regular vegetable oil and re-use it in all your stir frys. Remember, this oil should be well strained/filtered and refrigerated to not spoil.

                                                1. I dont have idea about which oil is used in china. But i normally use olive oil as it is odourless and healthy too. And i have heard that chinese people use olive oil, I am not sure but somewhere i have heard about it.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: prachishah

                                                    I've never experienced an odorless olive oil.

                                                    But olive oil's smoke point is WAY too low for stir frying Chinese style.

                                                  2. Lots of folks there use peanut oil. It's even given as a gift at Chinese New Year. Having lived and worked there for several years, no kitchen was "complete" without a big thing of peanut oil.

                                                    Here in the states, however, I grew up using Corn oil.