01 Aug Which Cooking Oils Should I Be Using?
Which Cooking Oils Should I Be Using?
Oils are the foundation of many popular recipes and are used in a variety of cooking methods, from sautéing and frying to roasting and baking.
When it comes to cooking, not all oils are created equal and there are a few things to consider when choosing which ones to cook with. The uses, flavor, and types of fat that oils contain are just a few things to think about!
Why is Smoke Point Important?
The smoke point is the temperature at which oil begins to smoke, releasing toxic fumes and damaging free radicals. When cooking oil begins to smoke, it also loses some of its nutritional value and gives an unpleasant flavor to the dish.
The five most common oils, along with their health benefits, smoke points, and best uses, are listed below:
Canola Oil: This popular oil is extracted from the rapeseed plant. It’s great for frying, sauteing, and baking because of its neutral flavor and high smoke point. Canola oil is typically regarded as a healthy oil due to its low saturated fat content and high monounsaturated fat content. Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can improve cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. Canola oil and vegetable oil can be used interchangeably due to their similar medium-high smoke points.
Vegetable Oil: This oil is a mix or a blend of different types of oils. It’s often an inexpensive choice that can be used for all kinds of cooking with a neutral taste similar to canola oil. The amount of saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and monounsaturated fat in the blend varies based on the oils used.
Olive Oil: This aromatic, fruity-tasting oil is made from crushed olive fruit and pits. Extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point at 374°F, so it’s recommended for colder dishes such as dips, salads, and dressings. On the other hand, light olive oil has a far higher smoke point of about 470ºF, therefore, it’s more ideal for high-temperature cooking, like sautéing, roasting, and grilling. Olive oil is good for your heart due to the monounsaturated fat and antioxidant content.
Avocado Oil: Avocado oil has the highest known smoke point of any plant oil, at 520°F for refined and up to 480°F for unrefined. This oil is great for frying, searing, roasting, and grilling! Additionally, it’s a good source of monounsaturated fats that can help lower inflammation.
Coconut Oil: This trendy oil packs the highest amount of saturated fat however this can still fit into many healthy individuals’ diets and also imparts a coconut flavor in many dishes. Diets high in saturated fat may raise cholesterol levels in the body, which could increase your risk for heart disease and research shows that replacing saturated fats, such as coconut oil, with polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, is beneficial for overall health, however as mentioned above, many can enjoy coconut oil as part of a healthy diet.1 The smoke point of refined coconut oil is 450°F that works well for sautéing or roasting, while virgin coconut oil can be used at temperatures up to 350ºF. Both are also suitable for baking with a 1:1 ratio for butter or other oils.
Bottom Line: Oils with high smoke points are good for high-heat frying and stir-frying, oils with moderately high smoke points are good for sauteing over medium-high heat, and oils with low smoke points are best saved for use in salad dressings and dips.
- The facts about coconut oil. Eatright.Org. Retrieved May 9, 2022.
Maryann Walsh, MFN, RD, CDE
Registered Dietitian/ Consultant