Once upon a time, cooking oil is synonymous with vegetable oil in an average American kitchen. For some, it’s melted-down lard. For those who want a fancy salad dressing, they have olive oil of undefined quality.
But now, when there are so many kinds of cooking oils, the average consumer can be confused. Some may opt for what they always had at home because they are unfamiliar about the others if that sounds like you, learn about the types of cooking oils here for you to make an informed decision.
Essentially, olive oil is an oil that has been pressed out of olives. The craft of extracting oil from olives was perfected by the Mediterranean people thousands of years ago, but today, most oil is pressed by steel rollers. It’s best poured over a salad or salad dressing. This oil is also great for sautéing, frying, and pretty much anything. Nutrition experts agree that this is one of the most healthy and versatile oils to cook.
However, many of the olive oil in the market is processed. The extra virgin olive oil –the unrefined one – is a staple for the Mediterranean diet and is one of the highest quality of olive oil. Unlike other olive oils, EVOO is untouched by chemicals or heat and contains more vitamins and minerals. But cooking with extra-virgin olive oil is a no-go because it has a lower smoke point than other oils, which means it burns easily. Because this is pricey, save it for your dressings and dippings, and use regular olive oil for cooking.
Coconut oil is another healthy cooking oil option that has been popular recently. There are many wondrous benefits of coconut oil for the hair, skin, so you can reap it from the food you eat! The fats that come from coconut oil convert easily into energy than other fat, helping to boost metabolism, aid in weight loss, and curb appetite.
With a moderate-heat roasting level, coconut oil is one of the best oils to use for roasting and sautéing. It also works as a delicious substitute for butter in most cookies, cakes, and other baking recipes. Avoid using it in vinaigrettes and marinades since it can become solid at room temperature.
Vegetable oil (can also be labeled as palm oil, corn oil, canola oil) is one of the most popular types of cooking oils. Consider this a default oil, kind of like the basic refined salt. And like salt, it’s not the best in the world health=wise, and this is why a lot of people are opting for fancier and more expensive options. These vegetable oils are made from subsidized crops, hence the very low price. Plus, its smoke point is very high, making it perfect for deep frying and recipes that involve dunking food in boiling oil.
Vegetable oil has no flavor, which means any food you cook in it will taste like itself. However, vegetable oils are highly refined and processed, which means they also lack nutrients. Some of these oils, especially palm, are associated with more degradation of land for production.
Derived from rapeseed, canola oil has a near-even ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. This dietary ratio is shown to help fight cancer, asthma, and arthritis. It’s also rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an essential omega-3 fatty acid that plays a role in weight management. Of all vegetable oils, canola tends to have the least amount of saturated fats. And like other vegetable oils, it has a high smoke point.
Canola oil is the best vegetable oil, and one of the best ones because of its heart health benefits. It has less saturated fat than the most commonly used oil. It’s an excellent option for everyday cooking.
Avocado oil is a lot like extra virgin olive oil but has a higher smoking point. It’s delicious and super versatile. Unlike oils that are usually pressed from a seed, avocado oil is made of the same creamy flesh that makes up guacamole. It’s a heart-healthy oil with anti-inflammatory properties that prevent arterial damage, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
This oil is the best choice for super high-temperature cooking, such as frying and grilling. It also makes a good drizzle or garnishes, especially when mixed into a vinaigrette.
Sunflower oil comes with pretty impressive health benefits. Made from pressed sunflower seeds, this oil is high in vitamin E, and a lot of omega-6 fatty acids. It’s a great alternative to the less expensive vegetable oil, as it also has the same smoke point.
On the other hand, sunflower oil goes bad pretty quickly, so it’s better to buy it in smaller bottled. This oil is great for frying, baking, and roasting, as you would use vegetable oil.
Peanut oil has a bold and nutty taste that’s high in calories yet low in saturated fats. It contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids that can help lower bad cholesterol. It’s high in omega 6, so don’t get too heavy on this cooking oil because it may mess up the omega 3:6 ratio.
Commonly used in Asian dishes, this oil can be used for cooking in different ways. It has a high smoke point that works best for frying nut-friendly meals, like stir fry vegetables. The best and worst thing about peanut oil is it tastes a lot like a peanut. It’s great if you’re cooking a dish like pad Thai, but it’s not great for broiling a steak. So, it’s great to keep peanut oil in your pantry but still have another oil for frying and other cooking purposes.
Walnut oil has a low smoke point, so it’s best used uncooked. This oil has a rich and nutty flavor, but it becomes slightly bitter once cooked. It can be used in plenty of other ways, such as drizzling over salads, pancakes, fruit, and ice cream. It can also be added to frothed milk for coffee drinks.
It comes with a chock-full of nutritional benefits and is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids plus iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. It has a good 0mega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio, which helps keep inflammation in check.
Though it has a nutty aroma, sesame oil is neutral in flavor. It’s loaded with antioxidants and comes with a lot of fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. It’s also known to lower blood pressure and blood sugar and improve skin. It even comes with vitamin K that helps provide bone support. What an oil, right?
Sesame oil has a middle-high smoke point, making it a great choice for coating your frying pan or wok before plunking down veggies or meat. When cold-pressed, it tastes great in vinaigrettes, dressings, and marinades. It’s best to use for recipes where you want a sesame flavor carrying through.
Flaxseed oil is high in omega 3 and has a very low smoke point. And ingesting flaxseed oil daily has a positive effect on your digestive system. It can also be used to help reduce high cholesterol and heart disease.
This is great to use only lightly for dressing, as a finish, or in a smoothie. Using too much may cause a funky smell and flavor.