Oils play an important part in many cooking techniques, including frying, sautéing, baking and roasting. Although many recipes specify which type of oil to use, not all do. The type of oil you use while preparing a dish or baked good can make a huge difference. Sometimes using oil that is different from what a recipe calls for can make a meal amazing – but how do you know which oils to swap? Or what if a recipe doesn’t have any oil recommendations?
Various oils have different qualities that make them better for specific uses. Some are better for baking while some are better for frying or adding to salad dressings. Which is the best to use while preparing your food? Here is an overview of some of the most common cooking oils, including health benefits and best uses.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is a heart-healthy fat, filled with monounsaturated fats. It is quite flavorful and can add a lot to a dish. However, EVOO does have a relatively low smoke point of between 325 to 375 degrees F, meaning it is not ideal for roasting or frying at temperatures beyond that smoke point.
Also keep in mind that cooking with extra virgin olive oil can change its structural integrity, changing its nutrition and flavor. Some chefs argue that you should use it more for finishing dishes and drizzling or for sautéing.
Pure Olive Oil
Pure olive oil is a great option for frying as it has a higher smoke point – around 465 degrees F. It isn’t as flavorful as EVOO but that is because it is chemically processed. It isn’t as heart-healthy as EVOO either. It is mostly just recommended for frying and less for other forms of cooking.
Use pure olive oil for grilling, sautéing, baking and roasting.
Many people stray away from canola oil, thinking it is not good for you. Perhaps this is because they associate it with fried food (which it is actually good for), but canola oil itself that bad for you. It is also chemically processed but it doesn’t have a major effect on the health qualities. Canola has a neutral flavor and a high smoke point of 400 degrees F.
Canola oil is low in saturated fats and is great for frying, baking and roasting. Its neutral taste doesn’t change the flavor of your food. It is not recommended for sautéing and salad dressing, however.
Vegetable oil is similar to canola oil. It has a similar smoke point, at 400 to 450 degrees F and also has a neutral flavor. It is also chemically processed. It is best for roasting, baking and frying but it isn’t very healthy, thanks to the chemical processing process, which reduces the majority of natural mineral content.
Veg oil is best for baking, frying and roasting and is not recommended for salad dressings or sautéing.
Avocado oil is growing widely in popularity. It is loved by many cooks who are into clean eating. It has relatively low saturated fat at about 1.6 grams per tablespoon and is filled with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. It has a decently high smoke point, between 375 and 400 degrees F and is touted for its neutral flavor minus the chemical processing of other oils (remember canola and vegetable oil). The catch with Avocado oil is that it is a bit more spendy, meaning if you are cooking on a budget, this may not be the oil for you.
Avocado oil is great for frying, baking, searing, roasting and sautéing.
If you want to cook with a flavorful oil, peanut oil is your jam, unless of course you don’t want your food to be peanut-flavored. It is great for stir-frys and adding to some types of baked goods, like peanut butter cookies. Its smoke point is 450 degrees F, making it a good option for frying some foods. But it is chemically processed, so it isn’t high in the nutrition spectrum. It is, however, low in saturated fat.
Peanut oil is best for frying and sautéing. Don’t use it in foods that you don’t want to taste like peanut.