A kitchen staple, cooking oil can be found on the shelves of almost every household across the globe. However, with dozens of uses and types of cooking oils, picking the right one for your dish can be a challenge.
Here’s a closer look at some of the most popular cooking oils, tips for using them, and how they can change the way you cook.
Vegetable oil is a popular, accessible, and affordable everyday choice extracted from fruits, grains, seeds, and nuts.
This oil maintains a neutral taste and smell, giving the flavors of dishes a chance to shine on their own.
With a very high smoke point (the point at which it stops simmering), vegetable oil is ideal for frying, baking, and cooking at high temperatures.
- Source: Various fruits, grains, seeds, and nuts
- Flavor profile: Neutral taste and smell
- Smoke point: 450
- Great for: Everyday frying and high-heat sautéing
Another oil with a high smoke point, peanut oil is a top pick for many, especially for sautéing and frying. Common in Chinese, South Asian, and Southeast Asian cooking, this oil adds a light and nutty flavor to your feast.
It can also be reused for multiple food types, as it doesn’t absorb the flavor from fried foods.
- Source: Peanut seeds
- Flavor profile: Light, neutral, and sometimes nutty taste
- Smoke point: 450
- Great for: Stir-frying and deep-frying
Pressed from fresh olives and offering plenty of versatility, olive oil can be used for cooking, dressings, sauces, skin care, and health products.
There are several varieties of olive oils, but most are made “extra virgin,” meaning no chemicals or solvents are used to extract it.
Opt for olive oil sold in dark bottles and store it away from light sources that can taint the flavor and nutritional value.
- Source: Fresh olives
- Flavor profile: Olive flavor and aroma
- Smoke point: 375
- Great for: Low-heat cooking and cold applications
Canola oil is made from rapeseed plant seeds, similar to cabbage, turnip, and mustard plants. The components of canola oil make it suitable for sautéing, stir-frying, grilling, and baking.
It can also be used as a substitute for fats like butter in recipes. Just like olive oil, you should avoid exposing canola oil to light and try to store it in darker bottles if possible.
- Source: Rapeseed plant seeds
- Flavor profile: Neutral
- Smoke point: 400
- Great for: High-heat cooking, salad dressings, and vinaigrettes
Canola oil is great for grilling. Not sure what to pair it with? Check out these unsuspecting foods that taste glorious when grilled!
Due to its high potassium and healthy fat levels, avocado oil is one of the best healthy cooking oils. With the highest smoke point of any cooking oil, avocado oil is perfect for pan-frying, roasting, and baking.
Additionally, you can drizzle over salads and other veggie dishes for a nutty and grassy punch.
Avocado oil comes in two varieties: extra virgin and refined. Extra virgin avocado oil offers similar qualities to an actual avocado, while the refined version has a less powerful flavor and higher smoke point.
- Source: Avocados
- Flavor profile: Buttery, fatty, nutty (extra virgin); lighter scent and more subtle flavor (refined)
- Smoke point: 482 (extra virgin); 500-520 (refined)
- Great for: Searing and frying
Each has a unique flavor, with virgin coconut oil providing the strongest taste and aroma because it’s the least processed of the three.
Melt this oil on the stove or microwave and add it to your baked goods for a new taste, smell, and texture.
- Source: Coconut flesh extract
- Flavor profile: Various levels of coconut flavor and aroma, depending on the type
- Smoke point: 350 (virgin); 400 (refined); 320 (fractioned)
- Great for: Baking
Sesame oil is a fragrant and flavorful oil extracted from sesame seeds. This adaptable oil is available in different varieties, including toasted and untoasted.
There are also dark, black, and Asian sesame oil variants. Each type delivers a distinct taste and aroma, with toasted sesame oil boasting the strongest flavors due to its roasting process.
Whether you heat it gently on the stove or use it as a finishing touch, sesame oil can elevate your culinary creations with its unique essence.
- Source: Sesame seeds
- Flavor profile: Varies based on the type (toasted, light, or dark)
- Smoke point: 410 (refined); 350 (unrefined)
- Great for: Enhancing a wide range of dishes
Which oil has the highest smoke point?
Refined avocado oil has the highest smoke point among the oils mentioned above.
Refined coconut oil has a smoke point of approximately 400 degrees Fahrenheit, making it one of the best healthy cooking oils for high heat.
Keep in mind, depending on the specific brand and quality of the oil; different sources may provide slightly different smoke point values.
Prepare Your Favorite Meals With the Right Oils
When you're working with any of these oils, especially when cooking on high heat, it's common to use a cast-iron skillet. To learn how you can extend the life of this crucial tool, read our article “Tips to Make Your Cast Iron Skillet Last Forever.” With proper skillet care and the right oils, you can transform your kitchen and create exciting culinary experiences.
What cooking oil is good for cholesterol?
Olive oil is a cooking oil considered good for cholesterol. Its high content of monounsaturated fats may help improve cholesterol levels when used as a replacement for saturated and trans fats.
What cooking oils are healthy?
Several cooking oils are considered healthy thanks to their beneficial nutrient profiles. These include olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil, and walnut oil, which are rich in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats and may offer health benefits when consumed as part of a balanced diet.
Do cooking oils go bad?
Yes, cooking oils can go bad over time. Air, light, and heat can lead to oxidation, causing the oils to become rancid. It's important to store oils properly, away from direct sunlight and heat sources, and to check for signs of spoilage, such as off odors or flavors.
What are the best cooking oils for high heat?
The best cooking oils for high-heat cooking methods, such as frying and searing, are those with high smoke points. Examples include:
- Avocado oil
- Refined coconut oil
- Peanut oil
- Sunflower oil
These oils have higher smoke points, which means they can withstand high temperatures without breaking down or producing harmful smoke.