The 11 Best Cooking Oils and When to Use Them
If you’ve been to Aurelius, chances are you’re already cooking with oils in the kitchen. They can be used for frying your eggs, dipping your bread, or giving your brownies that moist cakey goodness. They are a great alternative to butter for vegans and those with a dairy intolerance. Unlike butter, they don’t need to be kept in the fridge and some of them are quite healthy for you. With so many options out there, it’s hard to know which cooking oil is best. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of eleven oils you’ll most likely see at the grocery store and what to use them for.
Before choosing your oil, there are some things you should consider:
- Smoke point: At what temperature will the oil start to burn or smoke? Overheated oil has little to no health benefits and burning it could alter the taste. Unrefined oils will have distinct flavours and benefits for your health, however, they may have lower smoke points so they are best used raw, such as in salad dressings. Refined or chemically processed oils may have higher smoke points but little flavour profiles so they are best used for dishes where you’re cooking at a higher temperature.
- Health benefits: Some oils like avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil feature more health benefits like vitamins, antioxidants, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, all which contribute to a healthier body and mind.
- Price/availability: The benefit of refining an oil is that it yields much bigger quantities, thereby making it cheaper. If cost is a concern for you, something like coconut oil is not the best option, especially if the recipe requires a substantial amount.
- Taste: Some oils, like extra virgin olive oils, have a distinct flavour, which is something you might want when dipping a bread or using in a salad but not when you are cooking with more delicate flavours and ingredients. Some oils don’t have much of a flavour but that’s what makes them ideal for when you don’t want any competition between the oil and the other flavours, like baking.
EVOOs: Many people people believe that they cannot cook with extra virgin olive oil and while that’s true for very high temperatures, the smoke point of evoos is 410 ℉ so there’s no harm in sauteing your vegetables like onion and garlic in your favourite extra virgin olive oil. In fact, the more you can use extra virgin olive oil, the better, as they have lots of benefits for us like polyphenols and diverse flavour profiles. Read more about them in this blog. Extra virgin keeps for about 24 months, properly protected and stored. Our Early Harvest Extra Virgin Olive Oil is perfect for all your cooking needs.
Olive oil: If you’re looking for something with a higher smoke point but still want an olive oil, you can opt for pure olive oil or olive oil; due to being refined, its smoke point can be up to 465 ℉. It won’t have that same distinct flavour or health benefits that extra virgins have but that’s what makes it great for baking or anywhere that you don’t want to have competitions between flavours. Its shelf life is generally 24 months.
Avocado oil: Now if you’d like something with a high smoke point and lots of health benefits, look for some avocado oil -has a smoke point of over 500 ℉. It’s almost as healthy as olive oil; it’s got high levels of oleic acid, it reduces “bad” cholesterol, and is rich in vitamin C. When extracted, it’s a rich green colour due to the chlorophyll and carotenoids. Unfortunately, it tends to run higher in price to the previous two.
Coconut oil: For those that love the taste of coconut and don’t mind shelling out a few dollars, coconut oil is a great choice. While it’s higher in saturated fats than others on this list, it makes a marvelous substitute for butter when it comes to baking; try it in muffins or chocolate chip cookies. Unrefined coconut oil’s smoke point is 350℉ while refined coconut oil’s smoke point is 450℉.
Canola oil: While not the healthiest of the listed oils, the best thing about canola oil is its value when it comes to your wallet. With a smoke point of 400℉ , it makes a great companion in deep frying and baking because its neutral flavour won’t compete with any of the other flavours in your cake or brownies. Compared to other oils, it has the least amount of saturated fats but still has less nutrients overall.
Safflower oil: There are different varieties of safflower oil you can buy; high-oleic and high linoleic is two of them. High-oleic safflower oil has more monounsaturated fats than the latter and boasts a smoke of 510℉. High linoleic safflower oil has more polyunsaturated fats and is best used raw. Like canola, safflower oil is inexpensive and offers a neutral flavour profile so be sure to use it in your baking.
Sunflower: You can get different types of sunflower oil with differing levels of linoleic and oleic acid. This oil is rich in vitamin E and its colour ranges from clear, yellow, and amber. It has a neutral flavour profile and a smoke point of 450℉ so this is also a superb choice for baking, roasting, or frying at high temperatures.
Sesame oil: When it comes to sesame oil, you get the choice of toasted or non-toasted. Toasted sesame oil, which comes from roasted sesame seeds, is darker in colour while non-toasted sesame oil (whose seeds have been roasted for less time) is lighter in colour and a shelf life. Sesame oil has a distinct aroma and taste of sesame so it’s perfect for stir fries or Asian-inspired dishes.
Peanut oil: Peanut oil, with a smoke point of 450℉, is also excellent for stir fries or anything you don’t mind having a nutty taste like peanut butter cookies. Of course, it’s not ideal if you have a peanut allergy but if you’d still like a nutty oil, go for walnut oil (just remember that it has a pretty low smoke point of 320 ℉).
Grapeseed Oil: This oil is processed from the seeds of grapes, a byproduct of winemaking. They can be cold-extracted -which is healthier- or chemically extracted. It doesn’t have a lot of nutrients but it is very high -about 70%- in polyunsaturated fats; mainly omega 6. It’s got a smoke point of 390℉ but since it is mostly made up of polyunsaturated fats (which force harmful compounds and free radicals when heated) it is best to use this oil raw.
Vegetable oil: Vegetable oil is a blend of different plant based oils -like soybean, corn, and canola. Similar to canola oil, it offers neutral flavours and is fairly affordable. Vegetable oil is chemically processed so it has a high smoke point of 450℉ but no real nutrients, unfortunately.
If you’re looking for oils with high smoke points, choose refined olive oil, refined avocado oil, canola, peanut, or safflower. Budget friendly options are the canola, vegetable, and safflower oil. If you want an oil with a distinct flavour, go for olive oil, coconut oil, peanut, or sesame. If you’re looking for something to provide some health benefits, go for extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil. Now that you’re an expert, it’s time to get cooking!
READ ABOUT THE BENEFITS OF OLIVE OIL