Many vegetable oils are consumed directly, or indirectly as ingredients in food – a role that they share with some animal fats, including butter and ghee. The oils serve a number of purposes in this role: Shortening – to give pastry a crumbly texture.
- Texture – oils can serve to make other ingredients stick together less.
- Flavor – while less-flavorful oils command premium prices, some oils, such as olive, sesame, or almond oil, may be chosen specifically for the flavor they impart.
- Flavor base – oils can also “carry” flavors of other ingredients, since many flavors are present in chemicals that are soluble in oil.
Secondly, oils can be heated and used to cook other foods. Oils suitable for this purpose must have a high flash point. Such oils include the major cooking oils – soybean, canola, sunflower, safflower, peanut, cottonseed, etc. Tropical oils, such as coconut, palm, and rice bran oils, are particularly valued in Asian cultures for high temperature cooking, because of their unusually high flash point.