When cooking, there are many different oil options available. It can be confusing when staring at the grocery store shelves stocked with different oils for which one to choose. Do you choose olive oil? What about coconut oil or avocado oil? The vast number of options can lead to one wondering which one is best and what each oil can be used for.1 Before diving into the best oils for cooking, it is essential to discuss the smoke point for each type of cooking.
Wondering what smoke point is? This is the temperature that an oil can hit before it starts smoking and essentially burning. Once the oil begins to burn, it adds a burnt flavor to the food, and nobody wants that! Oil smoke points can range from 375 degrees Fahrenheit up to 520 degrees Fahrenheit.2
Each type of cooking has a recommended smoke point. This will ensure the optimal taste is delivered for each item/meal cooked.
Frying - This requires a high smoke point of 375 degrees Fahrenheit or more. This is important – if the wrong type of oil is used, anything fried in the oil will have a charred and undesirable taste.
Baking - Even though baking is typically done between the temperatures of 350 degrees Fahrenheit to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, the smoke point for oils used in baking starts at 300 degrees.
Sautéing - Sautéing also does not require as high of a smoke point. Sautéing can be done with oils that have a smoke point of 300 degrees or more.
Dressing - As this does not require cooking or heating, there is not a recommended minimum smoke point. The dressing is created with flavorful oils and drizzled on top of a salad.
Now that you understand the smoke point and what is necessary for each type of cooking, let’s go through the top cooking oils to use and what they each can be used for.3
Canola Oil - Canola oil has a neutral flavor that allows it to be used for many different types of recipes. With a high smoke point of 400-450 degrees, this oil can be used for many cooking methods, including baking, sautéing, grilling, and frying. This versatile option is great if you like changing your meal options often and aren’t sure what types of meals will be cooked each day.
Butter - Although butter usually gets a bad wrap for being unhealthy, it’s a cooking oil worth mentioning for its flavor alone. Utilize butter for multiple cooking methods like baking, sautéing, and even roasting as it has a lower smoke point of 300-350 degrees Fahrenheit. It adds richness to anything it is used in, which is why it’s perfect for the above types of cooking.
Olive Oil - This is another oil that is used not only for cooking but also for adding flavor. There are multiple types of olive oil that can be used. Each has its own purpose and smoke point. Two of the main types of olive oil are extra virgin and refined.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil - This type of olive oil has a smoke point of 325 to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. This creates a wide range of cooking methods that the oil can be used for, such as baking and sautéing. Use this oil for marinades and salad dressings.
Refined Olive Oil - Refined Olive Oil has a higher smoke point of 425-465 degrees. This oil is best used for cooking only, not dressings or marinades. Try this oil for sautéing, grilling, and baking.
Sesame Oil - Last but not least is sesame oil. This oil is not quite as versatile as the oils mentioned above. However, the taste that sesame oil provides in dishes is fantastic. Use this oil for Asian-inspired meals that require pan-frying or sautéing.
These oils are a great jumping-off point into the world of using cooking oils for different types of meals. Now you can browse the cooking oil aisle with ease. Don’t be afraid to look into additional cooking oils – the best oil for you for cooking is out there. Happy cooking!