Can I replace shortening with cooking oil?
Some people will tell you if it says oil, it has to be oil, if it says butter, it has to be butter, etc. I am 68 and have done a lot of cooking/baking in my life. I used oil no matter what the recipe called for. It never had any effect on how the recipe turned out, so I say yes, go for it. (06/15/2010)
This is just an educated guess from a non-cook, but I'd say sometimes. It really depends on the purpose of the shortening. If it's merely used to keep the food moist, you can probably get away with it. However, what makes shortening different from oil is its ability to be solid at room temperature. So if your baked good need "structure" or "lift" from the solid nature of shortening, vegetable oils won't do. It's like using water to build an igloo when you really need the hardness of ice.
Since shortening is basically hydrogenated oil, replacing it is good idea. Hydrogenated oil is the major source of transfats, which is now known to be even more dangerous than saturated fats. It's been implicated in many many diseases. In other words, using pure butter is healthier than using vegetable shortening. In fact, animal lard may also be healthier.
If you need the hardness of shortening, but want to avoid butter and lard, there are vegetable spreads that are solidified without hydrogenation. Most famous is SmartBalance, which has been proven to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. They have versions that also include lax seed oil and fish oil.
You can try emailing them to see if shortening can be substituted.
Making cookies, yes there is a difference. Unless it says oil optional make it using shortening/margarine/butter. Making bread, you can balance the fat. Making muffins, I prefer oil. Depending on your fat necessary for structure in the food. I prefer to use Evoo where I can as well, but there are places that is not good to taste either. (06/17/2010)
By Grandma J
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