But that convenience comes at a far steeper price than most people realize. And the supposed health benefits that come from using less fat when cooking with the sprays are not nearly as convincing when we examine the sprays a little more closely.
First, let's look at the very high cost for the sprays.
If you check the unit prices in the pictures below, you’ll see just how exorbitant the sprays are compared to regular oil.
At $10.64 per pound (16 ounces), the Pam spray is more than 10x the cost of regular oil priced at $.83 cents per pint (16 ounces).
Even the store brand spray is about 6 times more expensive than the plain old oil in a bottle.
That's just a huge price difference. Why spend it on something you really don't need at all?
If that alone doesn't convince you, then let's take a look at the low fat and zero calorie claims.
Turns out they're entirely misleading.
You see, they are based on a particular portions size that's been determined by the manufacturers.
And a quick look at the labeling reveals that portion size to be a ¼ of a second spray!
I am fairly certain that it’s not humanly possible to spray for a quarter of a second, and I know from observation that people much more typically spray for a good 5 seconds or more, so 20x longer than the portion size on the side of the can.
Now that may still be a relatively small amount of oil, but it’s not zero calories, and many people are tricked into thinking it is and paying an exorbitant price for false advertising.
Beyond the issue of cost and quantity, these sprays also contain some rather unhealthful oils, such as palm oil, as can be seen in the label below.
And then there is the issue of the propellants and chemical additives added to the sprays to make them non-stick and non-foaming. Some of those substances are less wholesome than most health-conscious consumers typically prefer.
The Problem with Sticky Oil
And finally, there is the issue of the aerosolized oil that ends up floating in the air and attaching itself on surfaces all over the kitchen.
I personally dislike that aspect of the sprays quite a lot.
It may not be noticeable at first, but over time, it can leave quite a deposit that attracts dirt everywhere in the cooking area, similar to what occurs if you deep fry a great deal.
It makes cleaning much harder and degrades veneers and finished surfaces more quickly. That's not something most of us want to see in our kitchens.
Simply Spread a Small Amount of Oil in a Pan
You can achieve exactly the same effect as the cooking spray at a fraction of the cost by simply measuring out a teaspoon or so of regular cooking oil into a pan and spreading it around with a bit of paper towel.
Or you can heat the oil up a little, and then spread it around with your spatula.
If you are really trying to cut calories, you can wipe out any excess.
Make Baking Pans Non-Stick With this Old-Fashioned Method
To make baking pans non-stick, I recommend an old fashioned approach that cooks have used for eons.
Simply take a small amount of wax paper, or a paper towel, or napkin, crumple or fold it, and and dip or rub it in some oil, butter, or shortening.
Then wipe the pan all over with it to create a thin layer of grease covering the pan's cooking surfaces.
Now drop a tablespoon or so of flour onto the bottom of the pan. Take the pan and shake it carefully side to saide and at different angles to distribute the flour and coat all the greased sides and bottom of the pan with it.
Tap the pan gently upside down over a wastebasket to release and dispose of any excess flour.
This creates a non-stick surface that will easily release cakes, breads, and similar foods.
For recipes that call for spraying oil directly on food, I recommend using an inexpensive kitchen or paint brush to spread the oil instead. It works just as well as a spray, is reusable, and is way more economical.
Use a Refillable Sprayer
If that doesn’t suit you, and you really want a spray, then you can save money and use healthier oils of your own choosing by purchasing a refillable spray container, such as the ones sold by Misto or Steve Raichlen.
They cost about $10 at Target and similar stores and would pay for themselves in short order.
But for less money, you can buy a simple, multi-purpose plastic spray bottle and use that to spritz oil onto your pans or foods.
Food grade ones can be found at restaurant supply stores and on-line. Sprayco also makes one specifically for BBQ, which could be used for pans and other food as well.
And there are similar bottles for sale in just about any dollar store out there that can fulfill the same function.
It’s a small thing, but small things add up to make a big difference in both spending and saving. To say nothing of health.
It pays in more ways than one to make conscious and mindful choices about where our money goes and the kind of products we buy.
So dispense with the cooking sprays and try one of these alternatives instead. I think you'll be glad you did.