Rapeseed oil: why make the switch?

Rapeseed oil: why make the switch?

by Great British Chefs 11 March 2016

Wondering what all the fuss is about over rapeseed oil? We look at the benefits of using this bright, yellow liquid.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

From spring to early summer it’s impossible not to notice the fields of bright, yellow flowers grown throughout Britain. But what you may not know is that one of the reasons these plants are grown is for their seeds to make rapeseed oil, an ingredient that’s rapidly gaining ground on the kitchen shelves of foodies everywhere. But why has it grown in popularity so much over the past few years, and why should we use it instead of sunflower or olive oil? In short, there are three reasons: the nutritional benefits, an amazing flavour profile and its sheer versatility in cooking.

Rapeseed oil is the only extensively-used culinary oil that can be widely found both grown and bottled in the UK. Other vegetable oils, such as olive or sunflower, are primarily imported from mainland Europe or further afield.

Rapeseed oil is processed by both small and large-scale producers and comes in two forms: artisan cold-pressed and refined. Cold-pressing simply involves using a press to squeeze the oil out of the seeds, retaining all its natural flavours, before being filtered and bottled. Refined oil on the other hand, is extracted from the seeds under high temperatures, before being cleaned to create a flavourless oil with a high smoke point.

Healthy living

One of the driving forces behind rapeseed oil’s recent popularity is its nutritional benefits. Most people are aware of olive oil’s healthy credentials as it’s the backbone of the Mediterranean diet. But many people are unaware of the nutritional benefits of rapeseed oil, such as that it contains less saturated fat than all other cooking oils and fats – fifty percent less than olive oil. It is therefore high in unsaturated fats, particularly mono-unsaturated, and replacing saturated fats with these has been shown to reduce cholesterol, which is good for heart health. It is also a rich source of vitamin E.

Rapeseed field
Rapeseed oil fields can be found throughout the UK, producing beautiful golden landscapes in spring
Rapeseed oil
The oil is extracted from the seeds of the plants to make either cold-pressed or refined rapeseed oil – which can then be used to cook with or make other products, such as mayonnaise

However, these nutritional benefits mean very little if the oil doesn’t taste nice and work well in dishes. Luckily, rapeseed oil does both. In its refined form, rapeseed oil is flavourless, making it an excellent carrier of flavour and allowing other ingredients, like spices, to really shine during cooking. It also has a high smoke point, so it won't burn when heated to high temperatures. This makes it perfect for deep-frying or searing foods when you want to preserve their natural flavour.

Buy a bottle of cold-pressed and you’ll be getting a wonderful rich, warming nutty flavour that works amazingly in dressings, dips and marinades. Just like fine wine, the flavour of these cold-pressed oils may differ slightly every year, and each producer may have their own unique flavour profile.

Rapeseed oil has a light, non-greasy texture and is so versatile; it’s the answer to perfect roast potatoes, crusty steaks, vibrant salad dressings and flavourful marinades. It can even be used in baking in place of butter, reducing saturated fat content. With this versatility and beneficial fat profile, combined with its great flavour properties and the fact that it is usually competitively priced, it’s no wonder more and more people are deciding to use it.