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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #122

Updated on February 7, 2020
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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

What Is Your Kitchen Kryptonite?

That is the name of an article recently posted on the foodie website Serious Eats. Do you remember Superman, the man of steel? He was (almost) invincible; the only thing in the universe that could bring him to his knees was the element kryptonite.

The gist of the article is that all of us, even experienced/pro chefs will admit (if they possess at least a shred of honesty in their souls) that there is something, a tool, a cooking method, or an ingredient that frightens the goodness gracious out of them.

For me, it's the mandolin. No, not the 18th-century eight-stringed musical instrument. I'm referring to the razor-sharp kitchen slicer that creates perfect thin slices, usually of vegetables—think of paper-thin slices of potatoes for potato chips, or planks of zucchini for lasagne. It can also make quick work of your fingertips (don't ask how I know this).

I'm just curious. Is there something that you absolutely will not do in the kitchen? I look forward to your responses in the comments below.

Not Much Mail

Let's get started with today's mailbox. If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.

Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.

I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.

Welsh rarebit (or Welsh rabbit)
Welsh rarebit (or Welsh rabbit) | Source

How Did Welsh Rarebit Get Its Name?

"I never really knew what Welsh rarebit was. I had no idea it was just cheesy toast! The name has connotations of a gourmet dish for the elite. Who knew? How did Welsh Rarebit get its name and what does it mean?"

Shauna (Brave Warrior), there are so many theories of how this dish got its unusual name. Who knows, one of them actually might be true. Here is a sampling of what I found:

  • "Welsh" in the 17th- and 18th-centuries was used as a patronizingly humorous epithet for an inferior grade, or for a substitute for the real thing. Welsh rabbit may have started life as a dish resorted to when meat was not available.
  • "The alternative spelling, Welsh rarebit, developed later. If a Welshman had some cheese, it would be a "rare bit." —Rare Bits: The Unusual Origins of Popular Recipes, Patricia Bunning Stevens [University of Ohio Press: Athens OH] 1998.
  • My friend Paul Leyton,...has delved into the musty past to come up with an explanation of why Welsh Rabbit is sometimes called Welsh Rarebit. In England...there was a time when hors d'oeuvre were known as "forebits," because they were served in advance, and the characteristic savories that come at a meal's end on British menus were called "rearbits"--hence the rarified pronunciation "rarebit."—The World of Cheese, Evan Jones [Alfred A. Knopf: New York] 1970 (p. 158).
  • I like the story that this dish, so much like fondue, got its name when Welsh wives, waiting anxiously, spied their husbands or sons returning from a hunt empty-handed and set cheese before the fire to melt, as a substitute for a dinner of game.

Cooking Temperatures For Various Types of Oil

Eric Dierker, I know that you asked a question about oils and smoke points, but I simply cannot find your exact quote. I apologize.

A smoke point is the temperature at which your cooking oil begins to send out some serious smoke signals. Oil shimmering in a ripping-hot pan can be the perfect way to create a tasty stir-fry or a stovetop-seared steak. But beyond a certain point, fat breaks down, releasing free radicals into the air and a chemical substance (acrolein) that gives foods a burnt taste, makes your eyes water and stinks up your kitchen.

I've put together a chart that shows the smoke point for most of the oils you might ever (want to) use, but I'd be derelict in my duty if I didn't take the time to issue some warnings. Just because you can cook with all of these, that doesn't mean that you should. And that is why I have also included numbers for the percentage of saturated, monosaturated, and polyunsaturated fat in each. If you don't know what that means don't worry, I'll explain that too.

Type of Oil
Smoke point in pF
Saturated Fatty Acids (not the good stuff)
Mono Fatty Acids
Polyunsat. Fatty Acids
Extra virgin olive oil
320
13
74
8
Butter
350
62
29
4
Coconut
350
86
6
2
Vegetable shortening
360
31
51
14
Lard
370
39
45
11
Macadamia
390
16
80
2
Canola
400
7
55
33
Cottonseed
420
26
18
50
Grapeseed
420
11
16
68
Peanut
440
17
46
32
Sunflower
440
13
24
59
Palm
450
49
37
9
Palm kernel oil
450
81
11
2
Ghee
485
65
25
5
Rice bran
490
20
39
35
Refined safflower
510
9
12
75
Avocado
520
12
71
13

Saturated, Monosaturated, and Polyunsaturated Fats

What do these words mean? It's chemistry (definitely not my best subject), but I think I can explain. There are three major groups of fats; like the Clint Eastwood spaghetti Western there are the good (monosaturated and polyunsaturated), the bad (saturated), and the ugly (trans fats).

Monosaturated and Polyunsaturated

Oils that contain unsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but start to turn solid when chilled. Olive oil is a good example of this. What is the difference between monounsaturated and polyunsaturated? A chemist would tell you that the difference between these two fats lies in their structures.

Monounsaturated fats contain one double bond in their structures. On the other hand, polyunsaturated fats contain two or more double bonds in their structure.

What does this mean? Well, simply put there are two methods of extracting oil. First is what we call the cold-press method—the monounsaturated oils. ‘Mono’ oils such as:

  • extra virgin olive oil,
  • peanut oil, and
  • sesame oil.

These oils are made without the use of chemicals. Squeeze, press, extract. Done.

Science and innovation have helped us to discover a second set of healthy oils—the polyunsaturated oils.

These oils are manufactured using heat and solvents to extract the oil from the seed or food product. Examples are

  • walnuts,
  • sunflower,
  • sesame,
  • soybean,
  • sunflower,
  • corn,
  • canola, cottonseed, and
  • safflower oils

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats occur naturally in many foods—those made from animal products. A diet heavy in saturated fats will raise your total cholesterol level. And (more bad news), foods high in saturated fats and also typically high in calories.

Examples are:

  • fatty beef,
  • lamb,
  • pork (which of course includes bacon),
  • poultry with skin,
  • beef fat (tallow),
  • lard and cream,
  • butter,
  • cheese and
  • other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk.

In addition, many baked goods and fried foods can contain high levels of saturated fats. Some plant-based oils, such as palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil, also contain primarily saturated fats.

The American Heart Association recommends aiming for a dietary pattern that achieves 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat. That means, for example, if you need about 2,000 calories a day, no more than 120 of them should come from saturated fats. That’s about 13 grams of saturated fats a day. One tablespoon of animal fat (bacon grease, duck fat, lard) is 116 calories and 13 grams of fat.

Trans Fats

I won't go into great detail on these because I am not including them in the list of potential cooking oils.

Trans fats are a man-made substance—an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oils to make them solid at room temperature. The benefit is that these oils spoil at a much slower rate—slower spoilage means a longer shelf-life for goods made with trans fats. And trans fats used for deep frying don’t have to be changed as often. You are probably wondering why this is a bad thing?

Trans fats are considered by nutritionists to be the worst of all fats—the Frankenstein of dietary substances. Trans fats (also called trans-fatty acids or partially hydrogenated oil) are truly a cholesterol double-whammy. They raise the bad (LDL) cholesterol and lower the good (HDL) cholesterol.

Trans fats have no place in your diet.

We're Organized

Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.

Here's a link to that Table of Contents.

I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.

Let's do this again next week. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address: lindalum52@gmail.com.

And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.

© 2020 Linda Lum

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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      18 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Kari, yes I did have a recent recipe for Welsh rarebit. I'll dig it out for you.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      18 months ago from Ohio

      Goodness, I think partially hydrogenated oil is what margarine was. I think I remember it being advertised. LOL, how times have changed (for the better). Did you give us a recipe for Welsh rarebit recently? That picture makes me want to make it.

      My kryptonite may be graters and mandolins. I use them, but hate too. I know what they do to fingertips also.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      18 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna, that's the way the professional chefs cook bacon, always.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      18 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda, I hope you don't mind if I chime in on Miz B's fear of frying bacon. I haven't fried mine in years. I put it on a baking rack inside a baking sheet (the broiler pan works, too) and bake it in the oven. No splattering and no grease all over the place. Plus it doesn't shrivel up.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      18 months ago from Washington State, USA

      MizB, I can't remember the last time I tasted "real" bacon. We have been using turkey bacon for ages. It's not the same thing, but my pork-shunning daughter insists.

      If I could find goggles that would fit over my glasses I'd wear them cutting onions. Although I have found that if you leave the root end intact you won't be bothered (as much) with the tear-inducing compounds. I'm a Northern gal and the only lard we have up here is in blocks (like margarine).

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      18 months ago from Beautiful South

      Linda, about my terror in the kitchen, I’m short, too, and my terror is frying bacon. In fact since I married a bacon-loving man who enjoys cooking, I refuse to cook it anymore. When I was a single mom and cooked for two boys, I always wore rubber gloves to keep popping grease from burning my hands. Then I discovered my son’s safety goggles. They protected my eyes from the frying monster and were great to wear when peeling onions, too. I still use them when the situation gets dangerous for a shortie like me. Oh yes, I wear rubber gloves when I’m using a mandolin. I’d rather replace a glove than waiting for a fingertip to grow back.

      About lard in buckets. We come from a rural area, so I grew up on lard, usually bought in a carton. However, my mom kept her clothespins in a metal lard bucket she got from my grandparents’ farm, so I knew lard came in buckets, too. Lard makes wonderful tasting food. Too bad it’s hard on the cardiac system. Good explanation of oils and fats today. Thanks.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      18 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, I am right there with you regarding flambe. I'm so short I fear that I'd lose my eyebrows.

      Stove-top cookies? Hmmm, that's a new one. I honestly don't know but I think it's worth some experimentation. Stay tuned.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      18 months ago from Brazil

      I would say my Kryptonite would be anything flambe. I have never attempted it nor do I wish to.I think this is a result of being from California and the risk of fires.

      Right after I made some cookie dough, I discovered my heating element is either coked up or just needs replacing. It is now disassembled on my patio table. Is there an easy way to cook cookies on the stove top?

      Glad to see Shauna's question about Kosher salt. I don't know what the difference is so look forward to your answer.

      Thanks for the info on fats.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      18 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Pamela. She's not mine, but she is a sweetheart, isn't she. Have a wonderful day.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      18 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Rinita, good morning. I think I can help you with the washing of the greens. My goodness, I think I have enough fodder for all of next week's column already.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      18 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Oh, Bill, you gave me the first good laugh of the day (I hope there will be many more). Good luck to you with whatever tasks or challenges you have today. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      18 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, when I read your question about how to cook with love when it feels like a chore, I swear I could hear Julie Andrews singing "A Spoonful of Sugar" in the background. I will help you with this. Have a wonderful day my friend.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      18 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna, I love salt and I love writing about salt. (Goodness, I devoted an entire chapter of my book to it). Your's is an excellent question and I'll devote a good portion of next week's Q&A to answering it for you.

      Thank you for the birthday wishes. It feels like this will be a beautiful day.

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      18 months ago

      Dropped by to say hi to you in your kitchen. My kryptonite? Don't laugh, though. It's the process of washing greens!! There, I said it. Removing dirt from greens and transferring over to a collander over and over again, nah. It scares me so much I avoid buying greens (and then lie to my doctor when she asks if I'm having enough greens). I know! I wish there was an instant method of cleaning greens. Hey, maybe you know!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      18 months ago from Olympia, WA

      The kitchen is my kryptonite....lol

      Sorry, but I have to run. I have a phone conference coming up in ten minutes....have a great day my friend.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      18 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I found the information about the various oils interesting and there are so many more than I realized. I really like that cute little cat at 5the end of your article.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      18 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Linda you are not getting off so easy this week. I am coming back to read this again - and probably again.

      Now sometimes I look at cooking as a chore. Like I would rather be doing something else. I really do think my attitude sometimes needs adjustment. Do you ever find yourself "just cooking". I think the food tastes better when cooked with joy in it. How do you deal with that?

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      18 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda, thanks for answering my Welsh rarebit question. I think I like the "rare bit" explanation the best.

      I do have another question for you regarding salt. I keep both fine sea salt and Kosher salt in my pantry. What are the best uses for each? Kosher for cooking and sea salt for seasoning after the fact? I also see a lot of chefs using flaky sea salt to top of many dishes, especially those of the sweet/salty variety.

      Can you offer a tutorial on the various types of salt and the best uses for each?

      Thanks in advance and Happy Birthday!!!!!!!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      18 months ago from USA

      There it is!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      18 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, I'm puzzled. As I write I'm looking into the eyes of a wistful little tabby. Maybe she's just in my imagination.

      I didn't know that they sell lard in cans. I'll bet you were making the best pie crusts and biscuits on the planet.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      18 months ago from USA

      Those kitties on vacation again? Missed the cat photo. My husband used to do the grocery shopping and accidentally bought a big can of lard instead of vegetable shortening. I wondered why everything tasted so much different then about died when I saw what he had done. I think he took a year off my life in cholesterol and what he did to my blood pressure when I saw the can. Whoops.

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