Q.: I have heard that cooking with coconut oil can have health benefits. But I have a question: Does it smell like coconut when you fry something and does it give a coconut flavor to whatever you are cooking? I can’t stand the smell or taste of coconuts and don’t want to buy some (it’s not too cheap) only to find that I can’t use it.
— B.D., Green
A.: Coconut oil has a very neutral flavor when tasted on its own or when used in cooking. It has no traces of coconut flavor.
You are correct that it doesn’t come cheap. A 14-ounce jar at a grocery store sells for $8 or more.
Coconut oil, at room temperature, will be fairly solid, like olive oil that’s been kept in the refrigerator. It melts fine for sauteing, and also works well in baking. It has about the lowest smoke point of all vegetable cooking oils, so it’s not good for frying or sauteing over high heat, as it will start to burn.
As far as its health benefits, I’m not a doctor and can’t attest to that. Coconut oil is very high in saturated fat — 12 grams per one tablespoon serving.
The health benefits of coconut oil recently got some publicity on The Dr. Oz Show, which has a lot of folks looking at it. Despite its fat content, recent studies have shown it may aid in weight loss, because its medium chain fatty acids don’t clog blood the way meat-based saturated fats do. Studies indicate coconut oil also can help in the treatment of skin conditions (you can rub it into your skin like a lotion), ulcers and fungal infections.
Got a food question? Lisa Abraham has the answer. Call 330-996-3737; email her at email@example.com with “Ask Lisa” in the subject line; or write to her at 44 E. Exchange St., P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640. Please include your name (initials will be printed on request), hometown and phone number.