Culinary Arts

Learn How to Cook With Corn Oil and the Health Benefits of Corn Oil

Written by MasterClass

Jun 26, 2019 • 3 min read

A trip down the modern cooking oil aisle can be a little overwhelming. In addition to the big three—olive oil, canola oil, and vegetable oil—you’ve got grapeseed oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, palm oil, and so on, all with unique flavor profiles and strengths. Hiding among them is corn oil, one of the most popular and prevalent varieties on the market.

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What Is Corn Oil?

Corn oil—or maize oil—is a low-cost kitchen essential. Because of its neutral taste and high smoke point, the refined oil is mostly used for frying but can also be used in a number of other recipes as well, from baking to stir fries.

What Is the Difference Between Corn Oil and Vegetable Oil?

Vegetable oil is a generic term for oil that comes from a plant, and corn oil is a type of vegetable oil. A bottle labeled “vegetable oil” is often either soybean oil, canola oil, or a blend of several vegetable oils. Corn oil and vegetable oil can be used fairly interchangeably, but the two oils vary slightly when it comes to their smoke points because you don't exactly what you're getting inside a bottle of vegetable oil.

What Is the Difference Between Corn Oil and Canola Oil?

Both corn oil and canola oil are similar in color and can be used almost interchangeably. Both corn oil and canola oil contain about the same amount of calories, fat, sugar, carbohydrates, and cholesterol. Canola oil, however, is made with rapeseed, a relative of cabbage.

What is the Difference Between Corn Oil and Olive Oil?

Olive oil is made from pressed olives, and is generally healthier than corn oil, as it has a number of health benefits like antioxidants and linoleic acid which are essential in a balanced diet. Extra virgin olive oil is preferred for its taste because it is not treated with chemical solvents, which makes it ideal for using raw and in salad dressings. Olive oil is more expensive than corn oil and has a lower smoke point.

How is Corn Oil Made?

Because corn is not a naturally oily food, the process for extracting corn oil is lengthier than most. First, corn kernels are pressed, then any impurities are removed through chemical processes: this includes a hexane extraction, deodorization, and winterization, which removes saturated fats to ensure that the finished oil remains liquid at low temperatures. While these steps do remove smell or flavor from the raw corn oil, it also strips the oil of most nutrients.

What Are the Health Benefits of Corn Oil?

Corn oil does contain healthy fats like monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which when consumed in small quantities can have beneficial effects on health. Corn oil is also high in phytosterols, plant-based compounds which block the absorption of LDL cholesterol—one of the main drivers of heart disease—and vitamin E, an essential antioxidant for fighting free radicals.

Corn oil has high levels of omega-6 fatty acids like linoleic acid, which can be beneficial in small amounts, but when ingested to excess can upset the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids: the ideal omega 3-omega 6 ratio is somewhere around 4:1, but corn oil has a ratio of 46:1.

What Are the Benefits of Cooking With Corn Oil?

Corn oil’s high smoke point—about 450ºF—is its number one selling point, allowing for ripping hot, rapid frying. Second is its neutral flavor profile, which won’t impart or detract from anything you choose to cook it with.

4 Methods for Cooking With Corn Oil

  1. Deep Frying. Corn oil shines when it’s brought to high heat and used to crisp up craggy buttermilk fried chicken, light rice flour battered fillets for Baja-style fish tacos, or homemade donuts.
  2. Grilling. Grilled foods, like skewers, are cooked quickly at high heat. Using corn oil will ensure the food doesn’t stick to the grill and won’t generate clouds of smoke.
  3. Baking. With its neutral flavor and lightweight consistency, corn oil is a nuanced choice for baking cakes, cupcakes, and muffins—anything that benefits from a non-stick coating in the pan.
  4. Stir-frying. Stir-frying noodles, rice, or vegetables, ideally in a wok, requires an oil that’s built for flash cooking at high temperatures. Heat a few teaspoons in a wok and fire it up.

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