Olive oils, vegetable oils, grape seed oils. With so many to choose from, picking the right oil for your recipes can be a daunting task. Not only are there a multitude to choose from, but all the various oils can have a major effect on the taste and preparation of food. Furthermore, different oils provide different flavors, and certain oils perform differently at different temperatures. Needless to say, picking the right cooking oil for the job is not easy. Fortunately, we’re here to help! Here are quick and simple tips to understanding cooking oils:
Extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive is an unrefined oil and usually of higher quality than regular olive oil. It has a delightfully nutty flavor, a buttery texture and tastes great. Despite these virtues, you should think twice about making it your cooking mainstay. Extra virgin olive oil has an extremely low smoke point of about 325°F which means it’s not ideal for cooking. Instead, extra virgin olive oil is best used for dressings, dips, and cold dishes.
Regular olive oil is essentially refined extra virgin olive oil and lacks any of color or flavor found in virgin olive oil. Olive oil is an excellent all-purpose cooking oil thanks to its neutral flavor and high smoke point of 465°F.
Vegetable oil, rapeseed oil, and sunflower seed oil
Every kitchen should have a bottle of vegetable oil for cooking emergencies. Many recipes call for vegetable oil as it has a neutral taste and has a fairly high smoke point of 400°F. Vegetable oil is often a comprised of a combination of various refined oils and is ideal for frying and sautéing, but not recommended for deep frying.
Rapeseed oil is almost identical to vegetable oil. It has the same smoke point and neutral taste. Depending on your region, however, rapeseed oil can be quite difficult to find in stores.
Sunflower seed oil has a similar neutral taste to vegetable oil and rapeseed oil. However, this oil has a higher smoke point of 440°F making it ideal for high-temperature cooking.
Another neutral tasting oil, grapeseed oil is gaining in popularity thanks to its high smoke point of 420°F and gentle flavor.
If you’re looking for the oil with the absolutely highest smoke-point, avocado oil is the one for you. This oil has an impressive smoke point of 520°F and a delightfully creamy texture and nutty flavor.
Peanut oil has a smoke point of 450°F and is best used for deep frying thanks to its complementary flavor. Peanut oil is also well suited to the flavors and tastes of Asian food making it ideal for stir-fries and noodle-based dishes. Unlike most oils on this list that can last for about a year, peanut oil can go rancid very quickly and is best used within four months.
Coconut oil has become fairly trendy in recent years and it’s easy to see why. While the smoke point is fairly low (350°F), its solid consistency makes it an excellent vegan butter substitute. In addition, its sweet tropical flavor can enhance baked goods, curries, and Asian cuisine.
Finally, we have toasted nut and seed oils like sesame oil. These oils should not be exposed to excessive heat at all as they have a very low smoke point. Instead, these oils are used as finishers and dressing for a number of dishes.