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Behold the Power of Pecan Oil

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[Photograph: Jamie Silver]

Think you know all about healthy cooking oils? Well, there's a new kid on the block: pecan oil. Not only is it lower in saturated fat than olive oil (7% versus olive oil's 14%), it's also quite versatile.

First and foremost, food should taste good. Pecan oil has a light, buttery, slightly nutty taste that imparts a touch of flavor but is neutral enough to use in all manner of sautées and salad dressings. It's also a delicious new oil to try in your favorite recipe for homemade mayonnaise.

You can even deep fry with pecan oil. It has a smoke point of 470°F (that's the temperature at which it starts smoking), which is even higher than peanut and soybean oil (each has a smoke point of 450°F).

Pecan oil can be more expensive than many other mass market or "commodity oils," but it's competitively priced if compared to artisan olive oils, which is probably a good comparison in terms of quality. There are a number of brands available, including Kinloch Plantation and Schermers Pecan.

There's also a roasted pecan oil on the market made by La Tourangelle. As a roasted oil, it has a lot more nutty flavor but won't stand up to high heat—this one's better for salad dressings or as a finishing oil or a very light saute.

One thing is important to remember when it comes to pecan oil, especially in the summer: If it's not properly stored in a cool place, it can go rancid very quickly. The best thing to do is to refrigerate it as soon as you open the bottle.

Do you ever cook with pecan oil? Got any favorite recipes or unusual uses for it?

About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co., which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.

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