Back to basics: Cold Pressed Oil

Oil is an essential part of cooking that we never really notice until there is something off about it. But in recent times there has been a sincere attempt at going back to our roots and bringing back the old methods of oil extraction. If you are one of the people who has been wondering if it is really worth the effort and the cost to shift to cold-pressed oil, this blog will tell you all that you need to know.

What is cold pressed oil?
While the term may sound new, the idea is not. If you were asked to conjure up the image of how oil was traditionally extracted, you are most likely to think of a set up with a large mortar and pestle driven by an ox. This traditional process was such an integral part of our daily life that the concept of ‘kolu ka bail’ is an integral part of our linguistic thought.Today, cold-pressed oil simply has the ox replaced by a machine, but the basic idea remains the same. Like the name suggests, cold-pressing is a process of using only pressure to extract oil from sources like groundnut, sunflower, mustard, sesame or even coconut with no heating involved.

How is it different from the oil commonly available in the market?
The refined oil that is more easily available in the market is extracted through a combination of pressure and temperature. Not only are refined oils extracted at temperatures as high as 200o C, but they are also processed along with chemical solvents to increase the yield.

Why is cold-pressed oil better?
The high heat involved in the extraction of refined oil robs the oil of its nutritive value. Cold pressed oil, on the other hand is rich in antioxidants, contains good cholesterol and is completely free from chemicals. Moreover, since the intention with this method of oil extraction is to extract the oil without any artificial additives to change the look and/or taste of the product, the oil maintains its natural aroma and flavour, thus enhancing the taste of the food as well.

Is all cold-pressed oil the same?
No. Cold pressed oils differ from each other based on what material the oil extraction machine is made up of. There are machines made of wood, metal and even a mixture where only the parts that touch the seeds are made of wood. So, when you read ‘wood-pressed oil,’ it is a kind of cold-pressed oil where the extraction machine (known as ghani, kolu or chekku in the Indian languages) is completely made of wood in the style of the traditional mortar and pestle.

What makes wood-pressed oil better than cold-pressed oil?
Firstly, the friction created in the oil extraction process naturally heats up the metal, thus heating up the oil even without artificial heating. While it is still more stable than the process of refined oil extraction, it does nullify the advantages of cold-pressed oil extraction to some extent. Secondly, metals are more reactive to oil whereas wood does not react with oil. So wood pressed oil retains its natural properties much better.

We hope that this blog gives you the ability to make an informed decision when it comes to choosing oils and you can make a healthy change that also packs a punch when it comes to taste.