Find out! Which oil is best for cooking?

Different types of cooking oil in a store

With the wide range of available cooking oils on the market today, it can be intimidating to choose the best one. Each cooking oil has different properties and benefits, and what is important is the end use. Do you want something nutritious and health-promoting? Or would you prefer a flavorless oil for sauteing or frying foods?

In this post, we explore how to choose the right cooking oils and see how they compare. So, what is the best cooking oil? Read on to find out. But before we begin, let’s first distinguish between the two major oil groups.

 

COOKING OIL TYPES

Oils are classified into two types: refined and unrefined. The latter retain most of their nutritional value. They also have more robust flavors, colors, and aromas than refined oils. However, they have a shorter storage life. 

Bottles of types of oils

Typically, they are labeled as 'virgin,' 'extra-virgin,' or 'cold-pressed.' They are best used unheated in dressings, sautéing, or baking.

 

CHOOSING THE RIGHT OIL FOR COOKING

Woman shopping cooking oil

Another important factor in selecting the right oil is understanding which oils work best at which temperatures. Some oils perform better at higher temperatures, while others are more effective with lower heat. 

Here's a guide to help you choose the best oil for your next meal.

 

1. SMOKE POINT

One of the most important things to consider when choosing an oil for cooking is its smoke point. It is the temperature at which oil begins to burn and emit toxic compounds. 

Hand pouring oil on a pan

The smoking point can range from 325°F degrees to about 520°F degrees. 

Oils with a smoke point of 400°F or higher are more versatile and can be used for high-heat cooking methods such as searing, stir-frying, and deep frying. See how your preferred cooking oil compares.

Although composition, volume, and environment can affect each oil's smoking point, the following numbers are good guidelines. Note: Please note that some types of oil come in refined and unrefined varieties.

OIL TYPE

SMOKE POINT

BEST USES

Refined Cooking Oils

  Avocado

520℉

deep and stir-frying, searing

  Olive 

465℉

grilling, sautēing, stir-frying

  Rice Bran

450℉

sautēing, stir-frying

  Peanut

450℉

deep and stir-frying

  Coconut

450℉

sautēing, stir-frying

  Corn, sunflower, safflower

450℉

sautēing, stir-frying

  Sesame

410℉

stir-frying

  Canola

400℉

baking, grilling, sautēing

  Grapeseed

400℉

sautēing, stir-frying

  Vegetable oil

400℉

baking, deep frying, roasting, searing

Unrefined Cooking Oils

  Extra Virgin Olive

375℉

baking, salad dressing

  Virgin Avocado

375℉

roasting, searing,sautēing

  Virgin coconut 

350℉

sautēing

  Sesame

350℉

sautēing

  Walnut, peanut

320℉

salad & vegetable drizzles

 

Heating oils past their smoking point can produce carcinogens and give food a burnt taste. Thus, knowing this is crucial.

SMOKE POINT INFLUENCING FACTORS

Oil smoke points vary. Some can be used at higher temperatures than others. For instance, walnut oil has a low smoke point. As a result, it should not be used for high-heat cooking, such as frying. On the other hand, vegetable oil has a higher smoking point and can be used to fry food without producing toxic compounds.

Ultimately, the smoke points are affected by the following factors:

Oil Processing: Impurities and free fatty acids that can cause oils to smoke are removed during refining. As a result, refined oils have a higher smoke point.

Fat Content: An oil's amount of free fatty acids also determines its smoking point. The more free fatty acids it has, the lower its smoking point. Oils like sunflower, flaxseed, and safflower have a lower smoke point due to their high polyunsaturated fat content. While avocado, canola, and olive, have medium smoke points because of their higher monounsaturated fat content.

Saturated fat-rich oils, such as coconut and palm oil, have higher smoke points. However, palm oils have a poor environmental reputation. 


Storage/ Aging: Light, heat, air, and age can reduce cooking oil's effectiveness and smoke point. To maintain the freshness of your cooking oil, you must learn how to store it properly.

 

2. FLAVOR

Different oils have distinct flavors. Some can be significantly stronger than others, which may not work better with your food. For example, extra virgin olive oil has a strong taste that may clash with the flavors of some dishes but shines in salads. On the other hand, sesame oil has a distinct nutty aroma but a pleasantly neutral flavor. Still, it is not ideal for deep frying. 

In other words, unrefined oils are best for salad dressings, baking, searing, and sauteing, but not frying. Aside from having low smoke points, their flavors may affect the food's taste. 

Oil flavors matter more when frying. Because of its reputation as go-to comfort food, fried food demands the most careful attention to detail during the cooking process. And refined oils are ideal because they are flavorless and have high smoking points due to the extensive purification process.

 

PUTTING FLAVOR IN PERSPECTIVE: How Does Frying Oil Affect Flavor?

Since fried food is the one meal where you must use the correct oil to ensure perfection, you must evaluate frying oils based on their taste neutrality and smoke point. While an impressive variety of cooking oils have been developed in response to the rising demand for deep-fried foods, not all are suitable for frying.

Hand pouring olive oil on a frying pan

 

Deep-frying involves completely immersing food in hot oil that should be between 320℉ and 356℉. Once submerged, the food's surface cooks almost instantly, sealing in moisture and preventing oil from penetrating deeper into the food. The trapped moisture will begin to steam, cooking the food from the inside out.

If the frying oil temperature is too low, the oil will penetrate deeper into the food, making it greasy and unpleasant. Alternatively, it can dehydrate the food if the oil temperature is too high. So, choose the right cooking oil if you don't want your fried food to be soggy, dry, or too oily. 

Furthermore, you can enjoy frying foods without the messy cleanup or guesswork of leftover oil.

 

RESPONSE TO COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Frying can be daunting, but once you get it right, you’re rewarded with crunchy bites of deliciousness that make it all worthwhile. Listed below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

Bottles of cooking oil laying down

  1. What is the best and healthiest cooking oil? 

For most people, the first thing that comes to mind is olive oil. Since it's flavorful, it can be used for many different purposes. But avocado oil has many of the same health benefits as extra virgin olive oil with a higher smoking point, making it ideal for sautéing or pan-frying.

 

  1. Which is the best oil to cook with? 

It all depends on your goal. Choose unrefined if you want to cook healthily. However, if you need something that can be used for multiple purposes and lasts for a long time without spoiling, refined oils are the way to go. 

 

  1. What is the best vegetable oil?

Vegetable oil is a fairly inclusive term that can refer to various plant-based oils, including olive, palm, canola, and soybean oils, among others. Each one stands out for its unique qualities and advantages. Your objectives are the critical factor. But here's a list of the best vegetable oils you can buy.

 

  1. Is vegetable oil better than sunflower oil?

Sunflower oil

Both oils have a high concentration of monounsaturated fats and a low concentration of saturated fats, so they fit into the same broad fatty acid category. Sunflower oil contains nearly three times more vitamin E than vegetable oil, while vegetable oil contains almost four times more vitamin K.

 

  1. Can I cook with avocado oil? 

Avocado oil

Yes, because it has a high smoking point.

 

  1. What is the best cooking oil for people with high cholesterol levels?

Rice bran oil because it is high in vitamins E and K as well as beneficial phytosterols. Studies show that rice bran oil lowers LDL cholesterol by about 7 mg/dl while increasing HDL cholesterol by 7 mg/dl.

 

  1. Which is better- avocado or canola oil?

Regarding health benefits, avocado oil is better than canola oil because it has more monounsaturated fats. But canola oil has a broader range of applications, is less expensive, and contains more vitamins K and E.

 

CONCLUSION

Bottles of different kind of cooking oil

Now that you're familiar with the smoke points and flavor profiles of various oils, it's time to implement them into your cooking. Your objectives as a cook should guide your choice of cooking oil. Pick an oil with a high smoke point that is stable enough to withstand re-heating if you are concerned about your health. Alternatively, choose an oil with a low smoke point and a robust flavor if you want to make mouthwatering meals. 

What matters most is that you enjoy cooking. A happy cook makes the best meals.

Please share your thoughts and let us know which cooking oil you like to use in the comments. We love hearing from you!


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