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This New Sustainable Cooking Oil Belongs in Your Kitchen

April 16, 2024
Courtesy of Algae Cooking Club

We give a lot of thought to what we’re going to cook (especially that nightly “what’s for dinner” quandary) — but what we’re going to cook those dishes in is also worthy of consideration. Even if you only use a little bit of cooking oil, butter, or other fat, you likely use it all the time, so it adds up. Recently I got an opportunity to try a new cooking oil made from algae, and it’s quickly becoming a new favorite, alongside stand-bys like olive oil and ghee. (Along with serving as head of content here at Clean Plates, I’m also a recipe developer and cookbook author.)

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What oil is best for cooking?

There isn’t one answer to the question of which is best. There are tons of oils to choose from at the supermarket, but you can narrow that down pretty easily. I avoid highly processed vegetable and seed oils, like canola, soybean, sunflower, and varieties just called “vegetable oil” — so that’s a lot of those bottles on store shelves. Instead, I usually choose avocado oil or ghee for higher heat; olive oil for lower heat, sauces and dressings; and coconut oil or butter for baking. (Olive oil is also great for baking; try it in your next batch of banana bread or homemade granola.) Plus, I save my rendered bacon fat for cooking and baking as well. 

What’s so great about algae oil?

With all those other cooking fats already in my kitchen, why even try the Algae Cooking Club oil? Two things intrigued me the most: the high smoke point and sustainability.

  • Smoke point. As the name suggests, smoke point is the temperature at which an oil begins to smoke. Once you heat oil until it smokes, not only does that make your kitchen smell bad, it’s also a sign that the oil has begun to break down, at which point it releases harmful free radicals linked to cancer, autoimmune disease, and cardiovascular disease. That smoking oil also can give your food a bitter or burned taste. That’s why I stick to certain oils for higher-heat cooking; they have higher smoke points.

Enter algae oil. Its 535ºF smoke point is higher than any other cooking fat I use. The ones I usually grab for high heat, avocado oil and ghee, have smoke points of 500ºF and 485ºF, respectively. There isn’t a huge difference between these and the algae oil, but it’s something — and it’s great to have another option, especially since I love to sear a good steak, crisp up the skin on a salmon filet, and caramelize shiitake mushrooms for a stir-fry, and those all require some heat.

  • Sustainability. Because the oil is made from algae and not crops that come from traditional industrial farming, producing it causes a fraction of the emissions when compared to the production of other oils. It also requires far less land and water. Plus, the company packs the oil in aluminum bottles; research indicates that aluminum is recycled more than twice as much as glass or plastic.
  • How it’s made. Another thing I appreciate about Algae Cooking Club oil is that it’s produced without chemicals or pesticides. The company ferments single-cell microalgae to plump them up, then uses an expeller press process to collect the oil. By contrast, to extract canola oil and other vegetable oils, manufacturers use hexane, a potentially harmful solvent.  

So important in a cooking oil: the taste

Last but certainly not least is the taste. Algae oil is very neutral, which makes it super versatile. Tasting it on its own, you get a slightly buttery flavor, but I found it very neutral in cooking, and in making dips, dressings, and other dishes. It’s a cooking oil you can just reach for whatever you’re making, knowing it will work with any cooking method, any flavor profile, any heat. You’ll find it on my kitchen counter among my other cooking fats from here on out.

Read next: You’ve Heard of Spirulina — Now Meet Chlorella, Its Even More Nutritious Sister

Disclaimer: We only recommend products we seriously love and want to share. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which includes affiliate links.


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