10 of the Best Oils for Cooking
Different types of oils tend to have qualities that make them suitable for different uses. Some oils are better for certain purposes, while others are not. For example, some oils might be ideal for frying, while others might be more suitable for baking. Yet, others might be more appropriate for making salad dressings and mayonnaise, etc.
Before you can decide on the best oils for cooking, you need to ask yourself what you need to use that oil for. You also need to sit down and think about the smoke point of your oil.
The smoke point of oil refers to its ability to withstand high temperatures. Certain oils are unable to withstand high temperatures and tend to oxidize when exposed to heat, releasing toxic flames.
Oils that have a high smoke point are ideal for frying, roasting, sautéing, and baking. On the other hand, oils that do not have a high smoke point are better off used in salad dressings and other such things.
Each time you need oil to fry something, you will have to opt for oil that has a higher smoke point and also a flavor that is relatively neutral. Generally speaking, oils with a higher smoke point are those that are more refined.
What Counts as a High Smoke Point?
A high smoke point is defined as one that is generally above 375 degrees Fahrenheit because this is usually the temperature you fry food at.
Oils that have a high smoke point and are therefore popular for frying include organic olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, avocado oil, and vegetable oil.
Similarly, if you are in search of an oil to bake with, you should go for an oil that has a neutral flavor as well. Coconut oil, canola oil, and vegetable oil are suitable options.
Alternatively, if you require oil for sautéing or searing your food, opt for an oil that is typically more flavorful and one with a relatively low smoke point. A few good options to go for here include sesame oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, canola oil, and extra-virgin olive oil.
Finally, if you require an oil to be used in a salad dressing, it only makes sense to go for the most flavorful option. Decent options to choose from include flaxseed oil and extra-virgin olive oil.
Lastly, do keep in mind that only because an oil is marketed as ‘healthy’ does not mean that it is low in calorie count. Many oils are rich in ‘good’ fats that are healthy for you but perhaps not the best option if you intend to lose weight.
Here is our list of the 10 of the best oils for cooking.
1. (Extra-virgin) Olive Oil
There are a number of reasons why extra-virgin olive oil is one of the most popular cooking oils.
This oil is rich in monounsaturated fats – these are fats that support heart health. For this reason, doctors generally recommend extra-virgin olive oil to people above the age of sixty so as to maintain their ideal heart health and to protect against heart diseases, such as a stroke or heart attack.
Another great thing about extra virgin olive oil is its taste. This oil can be pretty flavorful and can actually enhance the taste of whatever it is that you are cooking.
The only catch where this oil is concerned is that it has a relatively lower smoke point. This means that this oil can’t withstand temperatures that are too high, without disintegrating into toxic substances.
As such, extra-virgin olive oil might not be the best option if you’re looking to fry or roast food.
It is ideal for drizzling on top of salads, or for sautéing your food.
2. Pure olive oil
If you do want to use olive oil for frying and cannot use extra virgin olive oil (because of its low smoke point), there’s no need to worry.
The smoke point of pure olive oil is high, as compared to extra virgin olive oil (465 degrees Fahrenheit).
Because of its higher smoke point, pure olive oil can very easily be used for frying purposes. Unfortunately, pure olive oil doesn’t have quite as much flavor as extra virgin olive oil. This is because pure olive oil, unlike extra virgin olive oil, is processed with chemicals.
Additionally, it does not comprise of as many fats that are good for heart health. You will, however, have to make some sacrifices if you wish to use this oil for cooking.
Pure olive oil is a decent option for frying, but because of its lack of flavor, but it’s not ideal for use on salads, etc.
3. Canola oil
It is a commonly held misconception that canola oil is bad for your health. People tend to make this assumption because canola oil is often used for frying food. People view fried food as unhealthy, and by association, canola oil gets a bad rap.
This isn’t true, however. Canola oil has a high smoke point (roughly 400 degrees Fahrenheit), and this high smoke point makes it ideal for frying, but this doesn’t in any way mean that this oil is bad for you in any way.
Canola oil is relatively low in saturated fats. Because of this, it can be used for a number of purposes – frying, baking, roasting, etc.
It doesn’t have too much flavor by itself. Due to this, this oil should be used for sautéing or for salad dressings. Its neutral taste won’t do anything to enhance the flavor of the food.
4. Avocado oil
Avocado oil has recently gained a whole lot of popularity. Similar to coconut oil, it is loved by those who are interested in staying fit.
Unlike coconut oil, though, avocado oil doesn’t have a lot of saturated fat. Instead, the best thing about this kind of oil is that it is packed with monounsaturated fats that are good for your heart.
Additionally, avocado oil has a high smoke point (roughly 380 degrees Fahrenheit.). As a result, it can easily be used for frying, baking, and roasting things.
Furthermore, avocado oil has a pretty neutral flavor and isn’t quite as processed as vegetable or canola oil.
It can be slightly more expensive than oils that are too processed, but its high smoke point, neutral flavor, and rich concentration of heart-healthy fats make it a great alternative to other similar cooking oils.
5. Flaxseed oil
Flaxseed oil is actually pretty interesting as far as oils go. For one thing, this oil has a high concentration of omega 3-fatty acids.
Unfortunately, flaxseed oil is extremely heat sensitive. It has a very low smoke point and can very easily disintegrate into toxic substances when exposed to high temperatures.
It is, therefore, suitable to be sprinkled on top of a salad, to be used in salad dressings, etc. However, this oil should, under no circumstances, be used to fry things.
6. Vegetable oil
Vegetable oil is similar to canola oil. Just like canola oil, vegetable oil is also chemically processed. Vegetable oil has a high smoke point (of about 450 degrees F) and is also neutral in flavor.
All of these qualities make vegetable oil a good option for frying, roasting, and baking. Because it has a neutral flavor, it isn’t the best oil for use in salad dressings or for sautéing.
7. Peanut oil
Peanut oil is perhaps one of the more flavorful oils that you can buy. The oil does taste like peanuts, so you should only use it if that is the sort of flavor you want in your food.
It is a great option for sautéing and also to bake cookies to get a mild peanut flavor.
Peanut oil has a relatively high smoke point (roughly 450 degrees Fahrenheit). As such, you can even use this oil to fry certain kinds of foods, especially tempura.
Similar to canola oil and vegetable oil, peanut oil is low in saturated fats (that are bad for your heart) and also chemically processed.
8. Sesame oil
Sesame oil is yet highly flavorful oil. In fact, it is so strongly flavored that if you are using it to cook, you do not even have to use too much of it.
If you happen to, for example, have a peanut allergy and cannot use peanut oil, this is a great alternative to that.
Similar to extra-virgin olive oil, sesame oil is cold-pressed and is not chemically processed. It doesn’t have too high a smoke point (roughly 400 degrees Fahrenheit) and is a great unrefined option if that is what you have been in search of.
It is an especially great option for sautéing, as it will add great flavor to your food.
9. Safflower oil
It’s possible that if you still aren’t too fond of canola or vegetable oil, safflower oil might just be the way to go.
Safflower oil has a low concentration of saturated fats and a high concentration of Omega-9 fatty acids, making it pretty healthy for your heart.
Additionally, safflower oil has a flavor that is pretty neutral, and, as a result, can be used for cooking. Another reason safflower oil is great for cooking is that it has a very high smoke point (roughly 510 degrees Fahrenheit). In fact, it has a smoke point that’s higher than any other cooking oils out there. Because of its high smoke point, safflower oil is ideal for use in both frying and sautéing.
It doesn’t have too much flavor and therefore isn’t suitable for use in salads and salad dressings.
This oil can be purchased cold-pressed as well as chemically processed, just like olive oil. Both of these versions have a high smoke point.
10. Coconut oil
Coconut oil isn’t quite as great for health as it has always been hyped up to be, and it has been estimated that coconut oil has the same fat content as butter.
If you are in search of coconut oil that helps reduce your calorie count, then coconut oil isn’t the right cooking oil for you.
Coconut oil has a rich concentration of saturated fats. While there has been a great deal of inconclusive discussion over whether or not saturated fats are good for you, saturated fats tend to raise both levels of good and bad cholesterol in your body, and, as a result, are good for you so long as you consume them in limited quantities.
However, research has concluded that olive oil and other oils might just be superior to coconut oil when it comes to the healthiest cooking oils.
Coconut oil has a creamy, fat texture, and this makes it a good alternative to butter in baked food items.
Because coconut oil has a relatively lower smoke point (roughly 350 degrees Fahrenheit), it cannot be used for frying but can be used for other cooking techniques such as roasting or sautéing.
This was a comprehensive list of 10 of the best oils for cooking. So stop waiting and purchase your bottles of the healthiest cooking oils as soon as you can. It’s never too early to start worrying about your health!