Zero-calorie cooking sprays are the new entrants in the Indian food industry. These convenient oils-in-a-can claim to add no additional calories and makes cooking surfaces non-stick, which seems like a win-win situation. So we decided to arm you with more information about the new kid on the block.
What is it: Cooking sprays are simply an oil that has been thinned down and suspended in a can with the help of an emulsifying agent. The useful spray delivery method allows you to control the amount of oil that is dispensed and lets you administer a fine, and much thinner coating of the oil as opposed to when you would be using a cooking oil or ghee or butter. It is primarily used to coat your pan and make it non-stick when you are making, say an omelet, dosa or a pancake, where traditionally, chefs rubbed butter, shortening, or oils on cookware to prevent food from sticking. Cooking sprays are also useful when you are baking—coat your baking tray with the help of a cooking spray and your cupcakes and cookies will slide right out.
Plus points: The multi-functional spray can be used for cooking, grilling, baking, roasting or broiling. “The primary advantage of using cooking spray is that it reduces the oil consumption, by as much as 80%, without altering the taste of the food,” says Shyamal Panchmatia, Managing Director of LB Industries that owns Ray Cooking Sprays. Besides cooking and baking, cooking sprays can be used in salads as a dressing and to grease your hands. In some cases, spoons and measuring cups are sprayed before use when the ingredients are sticky (like honey, for example). In fact, you can spritz some cooking spray on vegetables before cooking to make the seasonings stick better. Unlike certain cooking oils that undergo a change in their characteristics when exposed to high heat, cooking sprays (due to the fact that only such a thin film of oil is used) have high heat tolerance. Most cooking sprays also claim to be fat-free and calorie-free. So here’s the math: 1 second of the spray results in 7 calories, that works out to up to 1,000 calories over time in a full can of cooking spray (depending on the size of the can).
Red flags: “Since cooking sprays come in the form of aerosol sprays, they are dependent on propellants to get the oil out of the can and onto the pan. Since propellants are chemical substances, you wouldn’t want too much of this foreign substance in your body. Though all the cooking sprays in the market have met the legal food standards of the country and are said to not pose any toxicity risk, it should be used sparingly,” says Pune-based nutritionist and author Rita Date. She also recommends that we can buy spritzers from the market, fill it with the cooking oil of our choice and use it—it works just as well, without any chemicals involved. Another observation was that most of these cooking sprays don’t list their ingredients on their website, and you need to actually read the label at a physical store.
In the market, the most commonly availableflavours of cooking sprays are vegetable oil, butter and olive oil.
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