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So what's the basic rule of when to spray with PAM etc or when to use olive oil?

For ex, for making an omelet, I usually use the spray.

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Clarification: is there a good guideline when to use olive oil when frying? is that when I need a liquid to fry something on? What are the mechanics of using olive oil when frying? –  Maverick Oct 9 '10 at 3:10
    
I almost exclusively use olive oil for anything I don't use butter for. The only time I'll use veg oil is for very high heat applications; deep frying, shallow frying, hard searing. –  daniel Oct 9 '10 at 19:21
    
Oh, and oils like sesame, truffle, high-end olive oil etc, I only ever use for finishing. –  daniel Oct 9 '10 at 19:25
    
Olive oil is now in spray cans too. –  MGOwen Oct 11 '10 at 1:09
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5 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

First of all, with omelettes--any sauteed eggs really--I much prefer butter. And with omelettes, less than a teaspoon is sufficient; swirl it around the pan until fully melted, then pour off the excess. In this case, you would be using the butter for flavour, not any specific physical properties. For scrambled, user rather more. Fried eggs are generally the only time I will use olive oil, and even then I will use a mix of olive oil (for the heat) and butter (for that flavour which goes so well with eggs).

In general I prefer to avoid sprays (unless you are talking about a pump-action spray bottle which you fill yourself) as there are propellants and such used in sprays to make them work. Personally I prefer to avoid multisyllabic synthetic chemicals in my food whenever possible.

But if you must... sprays are most useful when you need a very thin but even coating of oil. Omelettes are a good example, though honestly I cannot think of another use in cookery where I would find a spray advantageous.

In baking, however, sprays can be quite useful. Especially when baking tarts, pies, or cakes which call for the pan to be buttered and then floured. A quick spray makes things much simpler.

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For cakes, search for a recipe for "cake release" -- it's blend of shortening, oil and flour that you can brush on, and doesn't require flouring the pan afterwards. –  Joe Oct 8 '10 at 11:34
    
I highly suggest Baker's Joy for baking. It is simply soybean oil and flour pressurized in a can. It sounds like exactly what @Joe is describing. –  hobodave Oct 8 '10 at 19:15
    
Honestly, unless time really is of the essence, I don't much see the point in such things. Generally when I'm baking tart shells I need a floured surface to work on anyway... so I butter and flour my pan, tip the excess onto my surface, and life is good. –  daniel Oct 8 '10 at 20:41
    
+1 for the self filled pump. Those things rock. Convenience + quality ingredients = win. –  yossarian Oct 8 '10 at 23:13
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I recently bought this oil mister (http://www.amazon.com/Prepara-PP02-OM100-Oil-Mister/dp/B0026L7BNU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1286686630&sr=8-1) and filled it with olive oil to have another option besides the aerosol spray cans. Works pretty well, doesn't include any other ingredients, and can be refilled easily from large bottles of oil.

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With using oil, make sure that you're paying attention to the smoke point. Extra Virgin Olive Oil isn't good for higher temperature cooking - you want a higher smoke point oil at that point.

That said, I only use sprays for baking. Otherwise I use one of butter, vegetable oil, peanut oil, or olive oil.

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Not all olive oils are the same -- Extra Light Olive Oil is great for high temps (to about 450F) ... Extra Virgin Olive Oil will smoke much earlier, and you're ruining the fruity qualities by heating it. –  Joe Oct 8 '10 at 15:36
    
@Joe - good point, I so automatically think that Olive Oil = EVOO that I forgot to clarify. –  justkt Oct 8 '10 at 15:44
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I only use spray when doing things like waffles in an iron, possible pancakes too.

Otherwise it always OO or butter for some things (like eggs as roux says).

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You can also use a pastry brush to brush oil on the pan to avoid using too much oil and in lieu of sprays.

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