Believe it or not, choosing the right cooking oil is an important part of your cooking journey. Depending on what recipe you are using and the method for cooking it, using just the right oil can make or break it!
There are a number of choices when it comes to cooking oils, quite a lot actually! That’s why I decided to streamline it here so you can make the right choice when choosing oils to stock in your pantry without breaking the bank!
In this quick and helpful guide, I have chosen the top 5 cooking oils that I think are common and useful and will describe the most important aspects including smoking point, flavor, and uses for each oil.
What To Consider When Choosing Oil
There are a few really important factors to consider when choosing a cooking oil such as smoke point, nutritional value, storage and cost. Let’s take a closer look.
Smoke point refers to the temperature at which an oil will start smoking. This is important because when an oil starts smoking, it is actually beginning the breakdown process.
When an oil is breaking down it will diminish the nutritional value, produce toxic fumes and free radicals. Besides that it smells disgusting and will taint your food with a burnt flavor.
Smoke points differ among oils and also changed depending on if the oil is refined or unrefined.
Refined oils are put through a process usually including some heating, filtration, and straining. They have less flavor and nutrients due to this process.
However they are more stable as far as holding up better in prolonged heat. Therefore, they are a good choice when frying or cooking with higher heat.
Unrefined oils may go through a little bit of filtration but are not processed like unrefined oils. They hold onto their natural flavor and retain their nutritional value.
However they are not as stable when exposed to high heat. Therefore, they are more commonly used for sauteing, low-heat cooking, toward the end of cooking for flavor, or in dressings and sauces that do not get cooked.
All oils are made of fats. There are different types of fats including saturated fats, trans fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). All oils have different ratios of these fats.
There are so many thoughts on what fats are good for you or not so I’m really not going to get into my opinion on which oils are healthier than others.
Depending on your health goals and dietary needs or restrictions, you can research the right oil for you.
Oil is sensitive to light, oxygen, heat and time. It’s best to keep oils in their original containers in a cool dark cabinet. Cooking oils should be used within 6 months once opened.
Many people store their cooking oil right next to their stove or in a cabinet above or next to their oven but this is not the best place due to the heat that is generated while cooking.
On another note, certain oils can be stored in the refrigerator but others will solidify when exposed to the cool temperatures.
Top 5 Cooking Oils Described
Here is a quick guide (in alphabetical order) to 5 popular cooking oils including smoke point and the best cooking methods for each oil.
Avocado oil is made from the fleshy part of the avocado rather than the pit or a seed like many other oils.
Avocado oil has a high smoke point ranging from 480°F-520°F depending on whether it is refined. Therefore, it is a good choice when cooking at a high heat or for a long period.
Unrefined avocado oil has a rich nutty flavor and is used for dipping and in dressings as well making it a very versatile choice. If you prefer a milder flavor, then use refined oil.
Canola oil comes from the seeds of the canola plant. It is a vegetable oil that has a smoking point of 400°F making it a good choice for frying.
Canola oil is commonly used for deep frying as it is a much more economical choice than avocado oil. Another common use of canola oil is baking. When a recipe calls for vegetable oil, canola oil is mild and won’t leave a funky flavor in your goodies.
However, most canola oil is genetically modified so watch out for that. Luckily, it is possible to find non-gmo canola oil and even organic canola oil.
Coconut oil has a smoking point between 350°F-450°F. It can be used for frying, baking, and in dressings.
Unrefined coconut oil has a very strong coconut flavor whereas refined coconut oil has no flavor. If you like the flavor of coconut oil, it is best to use unrefined oil for baking (especially with chocolate, yum!).
Coconut oil will solidify when the temperature drops below 76°F and will soften easily when left out in room temperature.
Olive oil is made from pressing olives. It has a smoking point between 375°F-460°F. Olive oil comes in many varieties, extra virgin, virgin, light, and regular are some labels you will see for olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is probably the most common type and the healthiest for you. It is best for low heat cooking and is used in dressings and marinades.
Olive oil that is darker will have the strongest flavor.
Sesame oil is made from sesame seeds and comes either toasted or untoasted. The smoke point for untoasted sesame oil is 350°F-410°F.
Sesame oil is good for medium heat cooking such as sauteing and light stir-frys. Untoasted sesame oil does not have much flavor and it is lighter than toasted oil.
Toasted sesame oil is best if not used with heat. Therefore, it makes great marinades and dressings, or you can add it at the end of stir-frying as it has a bold sesame nutty flavor that is very delicious in Asian cuisine.
Top 5 Oils Easy Reference Chart
Oils are an essential part of cooking and the more you know about each oil, the better choice you can make to help your cooking adventure go more smoothly. There are different nutritional benefits to each oil as well as flavors and uses.
The smoke point of oil is key when deciding which oil to use. Unrefined oils have a lower smoke point than refined oils. So when you need a high smoke point, consider using a refined oil.
I hope this post has given you helpful information. If there is another oil you use often, let me know in the comment section below.
Also, we’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments!
See you next time, In The Kitchen With Me!
8 thoughts on “Top 5 Cooking Oils”
I use Olive Oil in my marinades, the smoke point was very useful for reference.
Olive oil is one of my favorites for marinades! I’m glad you find the smoke point information helpful.
Great info! I wonder if avocado oil is digestible for people with avocado allergies. Always wanted to try it.
That is a good question! I’m not sure. Avocado oil is made from the oil that is pressed right out of the pulp or the fruit of the avocado and if it is unrefined, it isn’t put through any heat or cooking process. So it may have affect you the same way eating an avocado would.
Very informative! The reference chart makes it quick to compare the different oils. Thanks!
Thank you for the comment, I hope you learned something new! What is your “go-to” oil for cooking?
Thank you for the information. It’s very helpful.