Oil to cook with

Additionally, cooking a good EVOO will break down its structural integrity which messes with both its flavor and nutrition, so you may want to save your fancy bottle for drizzling and finishing dishes. Find out just how to find your perfect bottle here.

Best for: Sautéing and drizzling

Not recommend for: Frying or roasting above 375 degrees F

Contents

3. Pure olive oil

If you love frying things in olive oil (which, like, who doesn’t?) you’ll want to use the pure stuff instead of EVOO. Pure olive oil has a smoke point of 465 degrees F, which can stand up to that frying heat. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as flavorful, because it’s chemically processed. It also doesn’t have as many heart-healthy fats as high-quality extra-virgin. But that’s the tradeoff for being able to use it for heavy duty cooking.

Best for: Frying

Not recommended for: Salad dressings

4. Avocado oil

According to Sasson, “avocado oil is the new kid on the block.” Much like coconut oil, it is beloved by the clean-eating community and surrounded by that same health food halo. However, unlike coconut oil, it doesn’t have quite as much saturated fat (only 1.6 grams per tablespoon). It is, however, packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and it has a high smoke point (375 to 400 degrees F) and neutral flavor without being chemically processed like canola and vegetable oil. It’s a bit more expensive than those more processed oils, but if you’re interested in avoiding refined foods, want that high smoke point, and don’t mind the splurge, then this is a great alternative.

Best for: Frying

Not recommended for: Budget cooking

5. Vegetable oil

Vegetable oil is kind of a sister to canola oil. It’s also chemically processed, has a similarly high smoke point (400 to 450 degrees F), and is neutral flavor. Again, these characteristics make it good for roasting, frying, and baking. Sasson and Shaw say it’s not the healthiest oil ever since the chemical processing depletes the natural mineral content—and that’s why it has that high smoke point.

Best for: Frying, roasting, and baking

Not recommended for: Sautéing and salad dressings

6. Safflower oil

If you’re still skeptical of vegetable and canola oils, may I recommend safflower oil. Shaw says that safflower oil is low in saturated fats, high in omega-9 fatty acids, and it has a neutral flavor and high smoke point. In fact, at 510 degrees F, it has the highest smoke point of all the oils listed. Safflower oil is sold both chemically processed and cold-pressed like olive oil, and either version you opt for will have that same high smoke point.

Best for: Frying and sautéing

Not recommended for: Salad dressings

7. Peanut oil

Peanut oil is one of the more flavorful oils out there. Meaning, you should probably only use it if you want your food to be peanut flavored. Sasson recommends adding it to peanut butter cookies, or using it to sautée stir-frys. It also has a high smoke point (450 degrees F) so you can even use it to fry foods like tempura. Like vegetable and canola oil, it is also chemically processed and low in saturated fat.

Best for: Frying and sautéing

Not recommended for: Foods that shouldn’t taste like peanut

8. Sesame oil

Another highly flavorful oil, this one goes a long way, says Sasson. “Sesame oil adds so much to a dish, so you don’t need a lot,” she explains. It’s a great alternative to peanut oil if you have a peanut allergy (or just aren’t fond of that peanut flavor). And like extra-virgin olive oil, it’s cold-pressed rather than chemically processed. So while it may not have the highest smoke point ever (350 to 410 degrees F), it’s a good unrefined option, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Replacing bad fats (saturated and trans) with healthier fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) is good for your heart.

One way you can do this is by choosing healthier nontropical vegetable oils for cooking and preparing food.

Use these oils instead of solid fats (including butter, shortening, lard and hard stick margarine) and tropical oils (including palm and coconut oil), which can have a lot of saturated fat.

Here’s an alphabetical list of common cooking oils that contain more of the “better-for-you” fats and less saturated fat.

  • Canola
  • Corn
  • Olive
  • Peanut
  • Safflower
  • Soybean
  • Sunflower

Blends or combinations of these oils, often sold under the name “vegetable oil,” and cooking sprays made from these oils are also good choices. Some specialty oils, like avocado, grapeseed, rice bran and sesame, can be healthy choices but may cost a bit more or be harder to find.

In general, choose oils with less than 4 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, and no partially hydrogenated oils or trans fats.

You may find that some oils have distinctive flavors, so try different types to discover which ones you like. Also, some oils are better for certain types of cooking than others, so you may want to have more than one type in your pantry.

You can usually use cooking oils just like solid cooking fats. For example:

  • Make your own salad dressings, marinades, dips and sauces.
  • Grill, sauté, stir fry, bake or roast foods.
  • Coat pans to keep food from sticking.
  • Spread or drizzle on foods for flavor.
  • “Season” cast-iron cookware.
  • Substitute for butter, margarine or solid fats in recipes.

Tips for cooking with healthy oils:

  • The healthier oils listed here are generally safe for most home-cooking uses, including higher temperature cooking such as stir-frying and pan frying. We do not recommend deep-fat frying as a cooking method.
  • Any oil starts to degrade once it reaches its smoke point. So, if you accidentally let your oil smoke or catch fire, get rid of it and start over.
  • If oil smells bad, don’t use it. When an oil is stored too long it can become oxidized or rancid. It will have a distinct smell, and you should get rid of it.
  • Don’t reuse or reheat any cooking oil.
  • Buy cooking oils in smaller containers to avoid waste, and store them in a dark, cool place to keep them fresh longer.

Our guide to the healthiest cooking oils

Some general points to consider when it comes to selecting oils

When it comes to oils, there are a few important general points I want to cover first and foremost.

If you’re ever in any doubt, the main thing to remember is that quality is key and, even when certain types of oils which are shunned, there are often still exceptions to the rule. Some things to look out for are oils held in big industrial-looking plastic vats which suggest the oils have been produced in mass and are more likely to be highly processed.

Next, terms such as ‘cold-pressed’, ‘organic’ and ‘virgin’ are ones to look out for and suggest that oils have been produced with a little more care, however, that isn’t to say that these should still be used all across the board. Many cold-pressed oils don’t have a high smoke point which means they shouldn’t be used for high temperature cooking, or their nutrition profile and taste can soon change. The aim is to select healthier oils but also try and maintain those beneficial qualities as we use them in our cooking – and that’s why I’m here to help!

Now, that just about covers the basics, so now let’s delve a bit more into the nitty gritty and explore which oils are best for what.

Best to cook with

Coconut oil has come into the spotlight in recent years and for good reason. It’s been used by some of the healthiest communities in the world for centuries, and this is as good a reason as any to include some in your diet! The intuition of many of these more traditional cultures really is the best. Coconut oil has a high smoke point so, can be used in high temperature cooking such as stir-frying and it adds a lovely taste; even to the most unassuming dishes!

Fatty acid profile

Coconut oil is highest in saturated fatty acids but this shouldn’t necessarily be shunned. The difference is that these are plant-based fatty acids, and coconut oil is particularly rich in a specific type of fatty acid called medium chain triglycerides. These have been shown to have a number of promising effects in research on metabolism and weight balance.1,2

Top tip:

Even the virgin, raw varieties can be used in high temperature cooking and you’ll be happy to know that they’ve had minimal processing!

Top pick: Lucy Bee Extra Virgin, Organic, Raw Coconut Oil

2- Avocado oil

Much like the popularity of avocados in recent years, this oil is following suit and making more of an appearance on our shelves. Avocado oil also has a high smoke point so it’s another great option for high temperature cooking. However, research suggests it may not only have a beneficial influence on our cholesterol levels (bonus) but it may also help to enhance the absorption of other important nutrients when used in salads3 – so it’s a super versatile, healthy pick!

Avocado oil is highest in heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (namely omega-9), but it also has a good content of plant based saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats too – an all-round, well balanced choice!

Avocado oil has a mild, pleasant flavour but it can be quite pricey so don’t use it alongside other bold flavours where the taste may be lost.

Top pick: Nature’s Aid Organic Avocado Oil

3 – Extra virgin olive oil

Yes, contrary to popular belief, for everyday cooking, virgin or extra virgin olive oil is still a good option. Although it doesn’t have the highest smoke point of all the oils, it’s still high enough to withstand sautéing and medium-heat cooking. Then, for higher temperate cooking such as stir-frying, I’d stick to your coconut oil or avocado oil options instead.

Olive oil has one of the highest monounsaturated fatty acid profiles. Omega-9 has a number of health benefits and is one of the main constituents of the Mediterranean cuisine – one of the world’s healthiest diets!

Although there’s some debate around using olive oil in cooking, research has shown that it’s a preferable choice4,5 and people all around the world certainly don’t hold back – so get on board!

Top pick: Meridian Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 – Extra virgin olive oil

Yes, it’s featuring twice – because it’s just too good! Extra virgin olive oil (often abbreviated EVOO in the restaurant scene nowadays) comes from the very first pressing of olives, meaning it is more flavoursome and less refined than lighter versions that you’ll often see. For this reason, you should enjoy lapping up the full spectrum of antioxidants (and delicious taste) by using it in cold dishes, but it can safely be used in medium-heat cooking too5!

Fatty acid profile

EVOO is highest in omega-9 which constitutes up to around 80% of its’ fatty acid profile!

Store your EVOO in a cool, dark place to help preserve that omega-9 goodness.

Top pick: Clearspring Organic, 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 – Flaxseed oil

Flaxseed oil is a fantastic source of omega-3 fatty acids and is a great alternative to fish oils for any vegetarians or vegans out there looking to get your anti-inflammatory, omega-3 fix. Due to the delicate structure of the polyunsaturated fatty acids it shouldn’t be used in cooking and instead it should just be drizzled and added to foods cold.

Boasting an impressive omega-3 content, flaxseed oil is richest in polyunsaturated fatty acids, but it also has a good content of omega-9 in there too.

A great way to boost the omega-3 content of any meal, you should keep your flax oil in the fridge once opened.

Top pick: Granovita Organic Flax Oil

3 – Hemp seed oil

Hemp products have shot up in popularity in recent years and it seems this plant has indeed, lots to offer! Hemp protein has an impressive amino acid profile, CBD oil is becoming renowned for its unique therapeutic properties and hemp seed oil is certainly not one to be missed either with its fantastic omega-3 and omega-6 profile!

Hemp oil arguably has one of the most impressive fatty acid profiles of all, with a good balance of omega-3, 6 and 9. The omega-3 and 6 fatty acids in particular, are found naturally occurring in the optimal ratio of 1:4.

Top tip:

Super versatile, this mildly nutty taste can be added to sweet or savoury dishes – perfect in everything from salads to smoothies whilst you can be sure you’re getting your fix of essential fatty acids.

Top pick: Nutiva Organic Hempseed Oil

4- Walnut oil

Not so well known, but walnut oil is definitely within my top picks of oil to get drizzling with. Unsurprisingly, good quality walnut oils have a pleasant nutty taste and go particularly nice with fish and wholegrain salads.

Walnut oil is highest in linoleic acid, a good quality omega-6 fatty acid at just over 50%, but actually, it also has a good spectrum of other fatty acids including omega-3 and 9.

Don’t be tempted to cook with it (the higher polyunsaturated fat content doesn’t allow for this) but use this oil to inject some flavour to your dishes instead. Make sure to keep it in the fridge once opened.

Top pick: Higher Nature Organic, Cold-pressed Walnut Oil

1 – Sunflower oil

Sunflower oil gets a bad rap, and it’s really because our diets are generally so heavy on omega-6 already, that the nutritive profile of this oil isn’t quite so attractive. Plus, generally these oils are more refined and more cheaply made, but better quality versions are still available!

Highest in omega-6 fatty acids, you can often get a better balance of fatty acids from other types of oils.

Whilst the large plastic drums of refined sunflower oil aren’t the best option, you can still get better quality sunflower oils suitable for cooking. Look out for organic, cold-pressed varieties as much as possible.

Top pick: Clearspring Organic Sunflower Oil

2 – Rapeseed oil

Rapeseed oil and canola oil – the names are often used interchangeably and over the years they’ve had their ups and downs. Although these oils can often be mass produced and can be associated with questionable processing techniques (these are ones to avoid), there are some better quality options out there too if you just take the time to look.

Canola oil and rapeseed oils are predominantly omega-6 based, but good quality versions are higher in monounsaturated fatty acids and you may even get a dose of omega-3 in some too.

Look before you buy and watch out for key, positive terms such as organic and cold-pressed.

Top pick: Biona Cold-pressed Rapeseed Oil

3 – Cooking oil sprays

Rather than another type of oil, I want to include cooking sprays in my third oil to consider limiting in your diet. Firstly, these sprays tend to be made from more refined vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, which will only add to our omega-6 load, but actually, we need good fats in our diet!

Counting calories meticulously isn’t always the best approach for weight management anyway, so we certainly shouldn’t be tempted to limit the proportions of fats we do have, for the sake of restricting calories. We need these good quality fats in our diet to support everything from our brain function to our weight management.

Pass! Many of them will have higher proportions of omega-6, but more worryingly still, there are often lots of ingredients in there too (not quite so natural).

Don’t be afraid to include good quality, healthy fats in your diet and an enjoy experimenting with some new types and flavours! For ease, rather than a spray, opt for a liquid coconut oil to save faffing around with spoons when it’s in its solid form.

Top pick: Nature’s Aid Liquid Coconut Oil

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15329324

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19437058

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15735074

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15291498

5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17935291

If you’re not sure which oils to buy these days, and which to skip, you’re definitely not alone. The world of cooking oils can be really confusing — with all the talk about different methods for “pressing” the oils, ideal cooking temperatures, various smoke points and so on.

Grapeseed oil is one cooking oil that’s a bit controversial. On one hand, it’s similar to benefit-rich olive oil in that it contains some monounsaturated fat. Why might grapeseed oil be bad for you, according to some opinions? Mostly because it’s made of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), particularly the types called omega-6s and omega-9s.

In the right doses, these fats can be anti-inflammatory and health-promoting for hormone production, your brain, heart and more. However grapeseed oil’s high levels of PUFAs and omega-6s may be bad news — since most people already get way too much of these fatty acids in their diets.

What Is Grapeseed Oil?

Grapeseed oil is a cooking oil that’s made by pressing the seeds of grapes. What you might not know is that it’s usually a leftover byproduct of winemaking.

After wine is made, by pressing the juice from grapes and leaving the seeds behind, oils are extracted from the crushed seeds. It might seem odd that oil is held within the seed of a fruit, but in fact, a small amount of some type of fat is found inside just about every seed, even seeds of fruits and vegetables.

Because it’s created as a by-product of winemaking, grapeseed oil is available in high yields and is usually expensive.

What is grapeseed oil used for? Not only can you cook with it, but you can also apply it to your skin and hair, due to its moisturizing effects.

Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, one tablespoon of grapeseed oil has about:

  • 14 grams fat (about 10 percent of which is saturated fat, 16 percent monounsaturated and 70 percent polyunsaturated)
  • 120 calories
  • 9 milligrams vitamin E (19 percent DV)

Grapes themselves are packed with nutrients, especially certain types of antioxidants — which is why studies show that wine (especially red wine) that supplies resveratrol can be beneficial in small to moderate amounts.

But how about oil made from the seeds of grapes? It’s not exactly the same thing, as it isn’t beaming with the same vitamins, resveratrol, dietary fiber or “proanthocyanidins.”

There are some grapeseed oil benefits, thanks to its vitamin E content for example, but at the end of the day, it lacks vitamin K, vitamin C, copper and potassium compared to eating actual grapes.

Grapeseed Oil vs. Olive Oil

Is grapeseed oil better than olive oil? What about avocado oil?

Just like other vegetable oils (such as corn, safflower, soybean or sunflower or canola oil), grapeseed oil contains PUFAs, in addition to small amounts of vitamins like vitamin E.

PUFA consumption has been tied to lower cholesterol levels, improved heart health and certain other benefits, but striking a balance with PUFA intake in proportion to other fats — like omega-3s, monounsaturated fats and saturated fats— is important.

If we compare the amount of omega-6s in grapeseed oil to other cooking oils, we find that grapeseed has one of the highest levels. Here are how different oils stack up:

  • Grapeseed oil: 70 percent omega-6 PUFA
  • Sunflower oil: 68 percent
  • Corn oil: 54 percent
  • Soybean oil: 51 percent
  • Canola oil: 19 percent

Some experts will tell you that if you consider the available nutrients, you’re better off probably eating grapes and using another cooking oil like olive or coconut oil. That being said, using grapeseed oil for high heat cooking has benefits over using oils with lower smoking points.

Benefits

1. Very High in PUFA Omega-6s, Especially Linoleic Acids

As the University of Maryland Medical Center points out, “there are several different types of omega-6 fatty acids, and not all promote inflammation.”

Studies show the highest percentage of fatty acid in grapeseed oil, linoleic acid, is a type of essential fat — meaning we can’t make it on our own and must obtain it from food. LA is converted to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) once we digest it, and GLA can have protective roles in the body.

There’s evidence that GLA might be able to lower cholesterol levels and inflammation in some cases, especially when it’s converted to yet another molecule called DGLA.

One study published in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition even found that compared to other vegetable oils like sunflower oil, the consumption of grapeseed oil was much more beneficial for lowering inflammation and insulin resistance in overweight or obese females.

2. Good Source of Vitamin E

Grapeseed oil contains a good amount of vitamin E, which is an important antioxidant that most people could use more of. Compared to olive oil, it offers about double the vitamin E!

This is huge, because studies show that vitamin E benefits immunity, eye health, skin health, as well as many other important bodily functions.

3. Zero Trans Fat and Non-hydrogenated

There might still be some debate as to which ratios of different fatty acids are best, but there is no debate about the dangers of trans fats and hydrogenated fats, which is why they should be avoided.

Trans fats are commonly found in fast food, packaged snacks and fried foods. The evidence is so clear that they’re bad for our health that they’re even being banned in some cases now, and many large food manufacturers are committing to moving away from using them for good.

4. Relatively High Smoke Point

The smoke point of an oil or cooking fat refers to its burning point, or the temperature at which the fat begins to oxidize, changing its chemical structure in a negative way. Beneficial nutrients found in unrefined oils are destroyed when the oil is overheated, plus the taste can become unappealing

PUFAs are not usually the best choice for cooking because they’re known to oxidize easily, which causes them to become “toxic.” However, grapeseed oil has a moderately higher smoke point than olive oil or certain other PUFA oils.

With a smoke point of 421°F, it’s appropriate for high heat cooking such as sauteing or baking, but deep frying is still recommended. For comparison sake, avocado oil has a smoke point of about 520°F, butter and coconut oil have smoke points of 350°F, and olive oil has one of about 410°F.

5. Beneficial for Hair and Skin

Aside from being a moderately healthy cooking oil, grapeseed oil has many uses for skincare and is especially beneficial for people with dry skin types or sun damage. It can be used to moisturize dry skin and hair naturally.

Since it’s free from synthetic ingredients, a good source of vitamin E and loaded with moisturizing fatty acids, there seems to be nothing wrong with using unrefined grapeseed oil topically.

If you’re prone to oily skin, you may find that grapeseed oil is a lightweight moisturizer that doesn’t contribute to clogged pores. It also makes a good natural massage oil and carrier oil (to be mixed with essential oils), including for sensitive skin.

Risks and Side Effects

The fatty acid composition of grape seed oil is where things get controversial. The balance or ratio between different fats is what’s really important. An abundance of omega-6s in the diet compared to other fats (omega-3s, especially) is problematic because this can increase inflammation levels, according to studies.

Omega-6s aren’t bad by nature; people just seem to get too much of them for their own good.

Different authorities recommend different ratios of omega-3s to omega-6s (such as 1:1 or up to 10:1), but most accept that higher omega-3 intake is correlated with better health.

For example, in the Mediterranean diet, the level of omega-6 fatty acids is much lower than in the standard American diet. The Mediterranean diet has been tied to better heart health, weight management and cognitive functioning into older age. People living in the Mediterranean usually eat a diet very low in factory farm-raised animal products, refined oils and packaged snacks loaded with omega-6s, which is one more reason why the American diet doesn’t look so good.

Here are some downsides to consuming a diet too high in omega-6s:

  • Increased inflammation: Excessive PUFA consumption and low omega-3 intake can lead to heightened inflammation, which increases the risks for many chronic diseases. Inflammation takes place when free radicals alter the way DNA works, attack cell membranes and change the way the immune system works. The more inflammation you experience, the earlier you show signs of aging and the more likely you are to deal with disease.
  • Higher cholesterol: When we obtain free radicals from toxic foods, which can happen in the case of PUFAs that become oxidized and molecularly damaged, our body isn’t able to metabolize and use cholesterol as well. This can up the risk for clogged arteries, heart disease and so on.
  • Hormonal imbalance and thyroid disorders: Inflammation damages our ability to produce and balance important hormones. Very high levels of omega-6s might be able to interfere with your ability to produce sex hormones and mood-stabilizing hormones and can interfere with thyroid activity.
  • Obesity and weight gain: When inflammation levels rise and your hormones become altered, this may mean impaired thyroid function, a sluggish metabolism and other issues controlling your weight.

Best Kind to Buy

Oils can be made in various ways — for example, some are “cold-pressed” or “expeller-pressed” (like those labeled as extra virgin), while others require chemical solvents and a very lengthy process to draw the oils out.

In order to extract the oil from the tiny grape seeds, heavy machinery and sometimes chemicals need to be used. Some modern industrial machines used to make grapeseed oil heat the oil to very high temperatures, which is the opposite of what we want, since this can destroy the oil.

So for this reason, the potential benefits of different grapeseed oils depends a lot on how the oil is processed and bottled.

Ideally look for cold-pressed, pure, organic grapeseed oil.

Cold-pressing, or expeller-pressing, means that the oil wasn’t heated to very high temperatures during the manufacturing process, which keeps the molecular composition of the fatty acids from negatively changing. Cold-pressing is basically using powerful machines to squeeze the oil out, without exposing it to chemical solvents or other ingredients that can make their way into the oil and be damaging to your health.

To cut costs and speed up efficiency, most manufacturers turn to solvents such as hexane, along with high-heat machines, during the processing period. So you might have to pay a bit more for a high-quality, pure grapeseed oil, but it’s worth it. To prevent the oil from going rancid, make sure it’s not exposed to light and high heats while being stored.

Note: Grape seed extract is a bit different than grapeseed oil. Grape seed extract is also sourced the seeds of grapes. It’s taken as a dietary supplement in capsule form, most often to help manage conditions caused by inflammation and those that affect the cardiovascular system, according to the National Institutes of Health. It contains a number of antioxidants, including phenolic acids, anthocyanins, flavonoids and oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs).

Cooking

Grapeseed oil can be a good substitute for olive oil such as when stir-frying and sauteing. It’s also definitely a step up from processed oils like sunflower, corn and safflower oils.

In terms of its taste, it’s virtually flavorless and odorless, which some people like because it doesn’t alter the taste of recipes like other oils sometimes can.

When it comes to cooking, pure grapeseed oil is relatively stable and can be heated without going rancid easily. However, in terms of providing taste, such as when making salad dressings or dips, other flavorful oils like virgin olive oil are a better choice.

That being said, it doesn’t overpower the flavor of other ingredients, so as Bon Appetit magazine suggests, you may want to use it in order to let high-quality balsamic vinegars or other flavors stand out.What types of cooking methods are a good use of grapeseed oil?

  • vegetable stir-fries
  • sauteing in a pan
  • oven-roasting
  • baking

Still, it’s a good idea to use it sparingly, such as by also using avocado oil or grass-fed butter/ghee when cooking. These generally make good grapeseed oil substitutes. This ensures your diet includes a variety of different fats, each with their own unique benefits.

Final Thoughts

  • Grapeseed oil is a cooking oil that’s made by pressing the seeds of grapes. It’s high in vitamin E and very high in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAS).
  • Potential benefits of grapeseed oil include moisturizing skin and hair, and helping to lower high cholesterol.
  • Is grapeseed oil a healthy cooking oil? Most people can afford to eat less omega-6 foods and more omega-3s, so considering grapeseed oil contributes high amounts of omega-6s, it’s not the best oil to have in high amounts.
  • It shouldn’t be the primary source of fat in your diet, and you should aim to balance it out with other types of healthy fats.

Best Oils For Stir Fry

A few years ago, I always thought that all cooking oils are the same but, to my utter surprise, they aren’t. You see, most of the recipes we follow always mention the use of vegetable oil.

They don’t bother telling you which one is best for which meal. but, worry not, today you learn the best oils for stir-frying.

Stir-frying is a Chinese favorite style of cooking and apparently, the kind of oil you use has a great influence on your meal. Unlike what we thought, oil isn’t just a medium to stop the food from sticking on the pan. Rather it flavors your meal giving it a unique flavor, texture and taste.

Understand that the oil you use is depended on whatever you wish to cook.

General Principals

  • For the high-temperature cooking like deep frying, you need to use refined oils since they can stand high-temperature oils. The oils here have high smoking points than the mechanically pressed ones like extra virgin oil.
  • The oil’s smoke point will vary, this is because of its quality, the impurities. Remember, the smoke point level is also determined by how long you heat your oil.
  • When you keep heating the oil, eventually it must break and it then becomes rancid. It then develops a bad odor and flavor. This kind of oil is harmful to your health in the long run. It causes obesity and cancer.
  • Keep your oils in a cool dark place to prolong their lifespan. Never keep them close to your heating source.
  • When you want to cook at a high-temperature, choose oils that have high smoking points. Similarly, for low-temperature cooking, choose oils with a low smoking point.

The Wok Oil

Most cooking done in the wok is usually high-temperature cooking. This might be stir-frying or frying. In this case, you only need oil that has a high smoking point. In most cases, the Asians use soy oil, vegetable oil and peanut oil to cook since they all have high smoking points.

The peanut oil has a pleasant nutty flavor, the neutral canola oil is also used t cook in the wok. You can also use the corn, soybean and coconut oil.

Below are the Best Oils for Cooking

  1. Extra virgin oil

This is the highest quality oil known to man. It is formed when the olives are mechanically pressed then there’s an application of force to remove the excess water. This oil should be used within 12 months of processing it and only 6 weeks after you open it.

This is another high-quality oil. It’s however made by blending extra virgin oil and lampante oil. This is then chemically processed to obtain a neutral flavour of the oil.

  1. Rice bran-Baja Precious

This is one of the best oils since it has a high smoking point of 490˚F. This makes it suitable for frying and stir-frying. You can also use it for salad dressing and marination too.

The oil is mechanically refined from the brown rice shell which means it retains the vital nutrients and vitamins.

I like the fact that it’s a balance of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats. Its gamma oryzanol is a great antioxidizing component. In Asia, it’s the most common cooking oil that suits the cooking style.

  1. Soybean oil

Soybean oil is another healthy cooking oil that has a smoking point of up to 450˚F.

This is a healthy cooking oil that delivers farm fresh meal to your table. It contains no GMO, no chemicals and no hydrogenation process. The physical pressing method is used to process the oil and this retains the omega fatty acids, vitamins amongst other nutrients.

It contains no trans fats that are known to be harmful to your health and it has a longer shelf life.

  1. Peanut oil- Loriva Oil – Roasted Peanut

Peanut oil like the above oils is one of the best cooking oils and it mostly has a smoke point of up to 450˚F.

The expeller pressed oil is best used for stir-fries and baking too. This is because its smoke point reaches 600˚F. It’s even kosher certified. Using it is an assured way of having a healthy meal on your table.

  1. Corn oil – Mazola Corn Oil

Did you know that corn oil lowers your cholesterol level more than olive oil?

Mazola corn oil has plants sterols that block cholesterol oils than other cooking oils. The plant sterols work to block the body’s absorption of bad cholesterol. They are found in nuts, vegetable and corn oil.

The oil doesn’t influence the flavour of your meal as it remains neutral while allowing the food flavour to come out. It works for all kinds of cooking which include sautéing, stir-frying, baking and grilling.

This is best described as a plant-based oil that is stable and refined. It’s a little tricky to tell the ingredients used to make it though. It is usually a blend of soybean, safflower, sunflower and canola oil among others.

It works best for deep frying and all other high-temperature cooking.

Iberia 100% Pure Vegetable Oil

The oil suits all kinds of cooking. It contains no cholesterol and only about 14g of fat per meal serving. You can use the oil for baking when you don’t want to use butter. It’s also suitable for sautéing, pan frying and stir-frying.

  1. Sunflower oil- SUNVELLA FryPure Non-GMO Original Sunflower Oil

This is a non-GMO sunflower oil that will make any dish taste great. It’s made by pressing then refining the sunflowers. It acts as a substitute oil to most other cooking. From frying to baking and your salad dressing this oil will never disappoint you.

It contains no cholesterol, additives for preservation and it’s also gluten-free. What’s more, the oil is kosher certified.

  1. Grapeseed oil-Grapeseed Oil by Sky Organics

This product features 100% organic and natural oils made from the grape seeds of Italy. Since it has a high smoke point and neutral flavour it works best for cooking. The oil is a pack of vitamins A, E and K that will fight free radicals.

Soy Bean Oil-Is It Good for Frying?

The soybean oil is low in saturated fat but high in unsaturated fat making it a healthy kind of oil. It has a high smoke point that makes it ideal for deep frying.

Sesame Oil

This is a product of one of the oldest oilseed crops. Although not so popular, it works best as the vegetable oil substitute. The sesame seeds are more popular in Africa and parts of Asia.

This oil is easy to extract and that is the reason for its popularity today. Mostly to extract the oil, you simply use the various methods of pressing. Nevertheless, there are mechanically extracted oils that are commonly from Australia.

It contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which makes it an ideal replacement for butter. It features a strong flavour which means you can use it as an additive to Asian stir-fry meals. Moreover, you can utilize it in your sauces and marinades.

It embodies vitamin E & K which works to enhance your bone strength.

Benefits of using the sesame oil

The oil has a pack of benefits which include:

  • Hair growth

Traditionally this oil was used to retain the hair color while regaining the lost hair and minimizing the continuous hair loss. It has the antibacterial effects that prevent foreign bodies and pathogens from attacking your scalp.

  • It helps to regulate plasma glucose level of your hypertensive diabetics. It further lowers the high blood pressure.
  • Good for skin care

It helps you to develop elasticity and smoothness while reducing the oxidative stress that ultimately causes skin aging.

  • It protects your heart health

It lowers the bad cholesterol level using its polyunsaturated fatty acids. The fatty acids keep your cardiovascular healthy.

  • The minerals in the sesame include calcium, zinc and copper and they help it=n the growth of your bones. It will help you avoid osteoporosis as you age.
  • Recommended by dentists for oral health. if you will partake in the oil pulling method, you will develop whiter teeth and lower the dental plaque. Its antibacterial effects further enhance its quality at oral health.
  • Prevents cancer

The oil contains phytate which has been linked to limiting the development of cancers.

  • Reduces inflammation

The sesame is rich in copper while copper is commonly an anti-inflammatory agent. This will help in the reduction of arthritis and gouts among other illnesses.

  • Baby growth

For those who massage their babies with sesame oil, you will notice that the oil aids in the quicker growth of the little baby.

Uses of sesame oil

  • This oil is commonly used for cooking in Asia and Middle Eastern regions of the world. Specifically, it’s used for stir-frying the Chinese meals, cooking the Japanese dishes and Indian cuisine.
  • You may use it for massaging too.
  • Some people use to produce various cosmetics.

Sesame oil substitutes

To be honest, the oil is a high-level form of oil. However, there may be people concerned about the number of calories present in the oil. Therefore, in such cases, it’s best to use the following substitutes that will equally give you the nutty flavor.

Peanut oil: peanut oil has vastly similar benefits that sesame has. It’s not only delicious in your food but it also gives you the nutty flavor which will suit most Asian cuisines.

Perilla oil: this oil is commonly used in Korea and it’s said to have similar taste and aroma as does sesame oil. It contains omega 3 fatty acids and will send away the symptoms of breast cancer, obesity, blood clotting and asthma.

Walnut oil: this oil imparts the nutty flavor to your meal and its rich in omega 3 fatty acids. It’s best used for salads, sauces and grills. Never use it for high heat cooking though.

Canola oil: this is another perfect substitute for sesame oil and like sesame oil, it contains a lot of unsaturated fat. It’s the perfect choice for those who love deep frying or stir-frying because it has a high smoking point.

Grapeseed oil: although it’s not the most appropriate kind it will deliver the similar flavor to that of sesame oil. It especially works well for your stir-fries and will give you various health benefits.

Avocado oil: is rich in monounsaturated fats which will protect you against heart diseases. The oil is closely like olive oil which makes it suitable for daily cooking. It will work well for your deep and stir-fries.

Olive oil: is known as the healthiest oil available today. It works as a substitute when you don’t intend to deep fry your food. If you can use extra virgin olive oil the better.

Sesame Oil Vs Vegetable Oil

To understand this better, we will look at the smoke points, ingredients and flavors

  • The smoke point

Sesame oil has a smoke point of about 420˚F and since its pressed from a toasted seed it does maintain the high-level smoke point. This means that its ideal for stir-frying.

It’s hard to clear-cut the smoke point of the vegetable oil since it comes from a blend of vegetables among other sources. However, they generally have a high smoking point and it’s suitable for long cooking options.

  • The ingredients used

For the sesame oil, is made using a 100% pure sesame seeds. For the vegetable oil as earlier stated, its hard to clear-cut the ingredients used as it’s a blend of ingredients. The common amongst the blends though includes sunflower oil, safflower oils, corn and soybeans.

  • The flavor

Sesame is highly flavored and should always be used in small quantities because it might alter the flavor of your dish if you use it in excess. Vegetable oil, on the other hand, is mild enough for sautéing and baking. They don’t add flavor to your dish.

  • Allergies

Unfortunately, sesame oil like the sesame seeds is associated with a lot of allergies. They may even cause difficulty in breathing. Equally, since vegetable oil is a blend of various oils, you may find cases of allergens especially for those who are allergic to soy or gluten.

Sesame Oil Vs Olive Oil

They both have a similar number of calories which is 120 per tablespoon and they are a load of healthy fats.

This fat help to lower the calories level in fact both the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in the oils make them ideal for protecting you against cardiovascular diseases.

  • The vitamin E

Olive oil has more vitamin E than sesame oil. This vitamin is an antioxidant and it will get rid of free radicals. Otherwise, the free radicals may stick on your healthy cells causing terminal illnesses. Sesame oil has vitamin E but in very minimal amounts.

  • Vitamin K

Again, the vitamin K component is more in the olive oil than it is in the sesame oil. Vitamin K will help you heal your injuries quicker.

  • The minerals

Sesame oil contains minimal to no minerals while the olive oil is a house of different minerals but in limited amounts. This acts as a small nutritional balance but you won’t get much from these minerals.

  • The flavor

They might have a very close similarity in other things but the flavors are different. Sesame oil is strongly flavored with the earthy feel. It also features the nutty flavor while olive oil somehow features the buttery flavor.

Sesame Oil Vs Peanut Oil

The peanut oil is made when you press the steam cooked nuts. It’s more popular probably because of its ease of access and inexpensive nature.

  • It contains lesser saturated fats than sesame oil.
  • Peanut oil further features a mild nutty flavor that will not influence the flavor of your meals.
  • It has a slightly higher smoking point which makes it ideal for frying.
  • The sesame oil, on the other hand, is made using the pressed sesame seeds and it has a rich nutty flavor.
  • Unlike the peanut oil that is more popular in the west, the sesame oil is popularly used in Asia.
  • Sesame oil is rich in polyunsaturated fats and is rich in antioxidants. And its safe as it will rarely turn rancid.

Can You Mix Olive Oil with Vegetable Oil for Stir Frying?

No need of mixing these oils since they have different smoking points and one may cause the other to become rancid quicker. Besides, if you need to stir-fry with olive oil why not use the light olive oil that has a high smoking point.

What Is A Good Substitute for Olive Oil?

For those of us who use olive oil frequently, you know the difference in your food when you can’t access it anymore. However, when a recipe calls for olive oil and you can’t access it, buy the following substitutes.

  • Canola oil

This is the most popular substitute for olive oil in the market. This oil is used for all-purpose cooking even baking. It further has similar benefits as olive oil. It’s neutral in flavor and can work well as a substitute for frying. When baking though it’s better than using olive oil.

  • Sesame oil

This oil is mostly used in Asian cooking. However, it can also work as a substitute for the olive oil for the general cooking purpose. However, sesame has a strong flavor that means you should use it but sparingly.

Dark sesame oil will work best for marination while light one will work for the frying.

  • Peanut oil

Since it’s an all-purpose oil, you can use it for cooking but more so, it works best for frying than does the olive oil. It further has a longer shelf life.

Canola Oil Vs Vegetable Oil

These oils appear similar in a way that most people like to use them interchangeably, but the qualities differ. However, they both will not influence the texture of your food and it’s right to use them interchangeably.

  • Canola oil

Canola oil is the kind of oil you will heat to different levels and still maintain a neutral taste. For most people, this oil is healthy since it contains monounsaturated fats and its low in saturated fat.

However, unlike most of these plant fats, canola oil isn’t from a natural plant rather a crossbreed.

This means that sometime the oil may come from GMO plant. It’s not always a major factor of concern although the GMO plants are at times sprayed using chemicals that could otherwise be harmful to your oil.

  • Vegetable oil

This oil is always a blend of different kinds of oils. This makes it a generic type of oil. It also has a neutral flavor which means you can use it in all kinds of cooking.

Since the oil is generic, its hard to know the exact plant that was used to process the oil and how the processing took place.

The fat content in the oil varies as its dependent on the amount of corn oil, safflower, soy and sunflower oil used. Therefore, this means that you have no control over the fats you consume.

How long will canola oil last?

Canola oil like all most other oils can go bad, however, if you keep it properly, it will stay safe for up to 2 years. It generally maintains a long and stable shelf life. Check the smell, appearance and taste to confirm that it’s still fine.

If you notice the development of molds, or the oil begins to have a foul smell and its darker in color, discard it.

Is It Safe to Use Sunflower Oil to Deep Fry?

Yes, it is but the sunflower oil that you should use for deep frying is oleic sunflower oil. This is a kind of oil that is high in monounsaturated fats. This means that it has less trans fats which produce toxins when subjected to high temperatures.

The oil is high in antioxidant vitamin E and mild in flavor which means it won’t influence your meal.

Grapeseed Oil for Deep frying

Whenever you need to deep fry your food, the grapeseed oil makes a great alternative to the regular vegetable oil. It has a high smoking point and its mild in flavor which suits just about any kind of dish.

It further contains omega 6 fatty acids. The only drawback is usually that it’s costly.

Peanut Oil for Stir-Frying

Peanut oil is quite common cooking oil in most parts of the world. It’s also best used for stir-frying because it has a high smoking point of about 500˚. It doesn’t change the flavor of the meal, neither does it absorb the flavor.

Peanut oil substitutes

Sunflower oil: This one also has a high smoking point of about 450˚ which makes it ideal for stir-frying and frying like peanut oil.

Safflower oil: This oil is flavorless and has a high smoking point which makes it ideal for frying just like the peanut oil. It contains omega 6 fatty acids and is ideal for use by those who are concerned about diseases like heart attack.

Grapeseed oil: It has a high smoking point and its neutral in flavor. It also delivers a neutral taste no wonder, most chefs prefer it. It’s a great substitute for peanut but also extra virgin oil.

Canola oil: The two oils both contain monounsaturated fats and they have a high smoking point which makes them ideal for frying.

Walnut oil: This being a nut oil, it’s an excellent substitute of peanut oil. Its antioxidant properties help to prevent diseases which include heart disease. However, never use it for deep frying purposes or any other high-temperature cooking.

Almond oil: Another peanut oil substitute is almond oil. Although it’s expensive, the health benefits are massive. When you want to use almond oil for stir-frying and any other high-temperature cooking, buy the refined almond oil.

Vegetable oil: it’s for all-purpose cooking yet its cheap. It will work well as a peanut oil substitute.

How long will peanut oil last?

This oil, unlike canola oil, has a shorter shelf life. The unopened peanut oil can last up to a year. Once you open the oil then use it for not more than 6 months. Although its best used within 4 months. After the 6 months, the oil begins to turn rancid and toxic to your health.

What is the healthiest oil for stir-frying?

Most of the oils discussed above have high smoking points yet they are healthy. Therefore, I would say canola oil is best used because its neutral in flavor. You can also use rice bran oil, peanut oil, coconut oil or sesame oil.

Coconut Oil for Stir-Frying

As you had earlier seen, coconut oil has a high smoking point which makes it ideal for use in stir-frying and most other high-temperature methods of cooking. I essentially love the sweet coconut flavor in my meal.

You can use this oil in place of canola oil and vegetable oil especially when you are making different meals that you love to panfry.

The Best Oil For Fried Rice

The secret to the perfect Asian meal is the use of the correct oil for cooking it. While we love olive oil it doesn’t have a high smoking point, therefore, if you aren’t using it for seasoning don’t use it to stir-fry.

The best oil to use for the process is peanut oil, vegetable oil or palm oil mainly because they don’t influence the flavor of your meal. They are further neutral tasting.

Sesame oil is also vital in Asian cooking. However, this is only suitable if you use it as a seasoning oil to impart its flavor on the rice.

Best Oil for Pan Frying

Pan frying requires high smoking point oils. Therefore, if you have coconut oil, vegetable oil, rice bran, peanut oil and almond oil you can use them.

Best Oil for Deep Frying

Of course, deep frying isn’t the healthiest method of cooking. Nonetheless, if you must use this method of cooking, then at least make the oil a healthy one.

Your oils should have a smoking point of about 400˚F.

Rice bran oil: this comes in with a lot of health benefits and since it has a high smoking point its best used for deep frying. It’s further free from GMOs and it will lower the cholesterol level.

Peanut oil: this oil has a neutral taste and a high smoking point. Nevertheless, don’t use the unrefined peanut oil since it doesn’t have a high smoking point. It’s also full of flavor which makes it suitable for other different cooking methods than frying.

Soybean oil: this oil is extracted from soybean and its rich in antioxidants. It further contains portions of omega 3 fatty acid and polyunsaturated fats. Nevertheless, if you want to use it for deep frying, only choose the high oleic type.

Canola oil: this one is extracted from rapeseed and is one of the healthiest cooking oils that won’t influence your food. It has a neutral flavor and high smoking point which makes it ideal for frying. Safflower oil: this oil is literary flavorless but with a high smoking point of about 520˚F. In fact, it’s the best option for salad dressing because it never solidifies in cold temperatures.

Avocado oil: this oil has massive health benefits with a high smoke point of 520˚F.

Vegetable oil: it’s meant for all-purpose cooking and will, therefore, work for deep frying because it’s neutral and has a high smoking point.

Coconut oil: this appears to be the healthiest option for deep frying. This is because it never loses its quality even after deep frying your food with it for many hours.

Best Oil for Frying Potatoes

Basically, most of the oils above used in deep frying may also be used to fry potatoes. Moreover, consider using the ones below in addition to the above.

Cottonseed oil: This oil isn’t as healthy as other oils mentioned above yet it’s the most used to fry potatoes here. This is attributed to the fact that it has a high smoke point of 450˚F.

Other best oils to use include: sunflower oil, flaxseed oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, canola oil and in some instances olive oil.

Best oil to fry chicken

Whenever you want to fry chicken, you should consider the following.

  • Use oil that prevents flavor transfer.
  • Ensure your oil has a high smoking point.
  • Avoid oils with strong flavors that will change the flavor of your chicken.

Use canola oil, coconut oil and peanut oil. If you can get vegetable oil use that too for its effectiveness.

Conclusion

The texture, flavor and taste of any meal are determined by the oil you use to cook. The health factor being the most important factor for most people means you should use healthy oils as listed above.

The 10 Best and Worst Oils For Your Health

Home cooks have plenty of options when it comes to choosing which type of oil to sauté, bake and drizzle with. Some, like olive oil, are well known, and others, like avocado or coconut oil, are less familiar.

Which oil is right for you? That depends largely on the type of cooking you’re doing. An oil’s smoke point, which is the point when oil starts burning and smoking, is one of the most important things to consider. If you heat oil past its smoke point, it not only harms the flavor, but many of the nutrients in the oil degrade—and the oil will release harmful compounds called free radicals.

If you’re wondering which is the best cooking oil for your health—and which oils are not healthy—there’s some disagreement. TIME spoke to two cooking oil experts—Liz Weinandy, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and Lisa Howard, author of The Big Book of Healthy Cooking Oils—about how to choose the best option.

Olive oil

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Nutrition and cooking experts agree that one of the most versatile and healthy oils to cook with and eat is olive oil, as long as it’s extra virgin. “You want an oil that is not refined and overly processed,” says Howard. An “extra virgin” label means that the olive oil is not refined, and therefore of high quality. Extra virgin olive oil contains a large amount of monounsaturated fats and some polyunsaturated fatty acids; many studies have linked it to better heart health. Olive oil has a relatively lower smoke point compared to other oils, so it’s best for low and medium-heat cooking.

It’s also one of the healthiest oils to use when baking. “As a dressing it’s great, too,” says Howard. “And I like to put it into my lattes.”

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that in the United States, sometimes olive oil that’s labeled “extra virgin” is not what it claims to be. In 2015, the National Consumers League tested 11 different olive oils and found that six of them failed to meet the standards that classify them as extra virgin. Here’s a list of extra virgin olive oils that did pass the test; they include widely available brands like California Olive Ranch, Colavita and Lucini.

Coconut oil

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Depending on who you ask, coconut oil should either be avoided or embraced in moderation. The main point of conflict is its high saturated fat content; unlike other plant-based oils, coconut oil is primarily a saturated fat. Not everyone agrees that such a concentrated source of saturated fat is a no-go for health, but some experts, including the American Heart Association, argue that replacing foods that are high in saturated fat with healthier options can lower blood cholesterol levels and improve lipid profiles. Still, science is starting to suggest that not all saturated fats are bad for you.

Generally speaking, there’s a lot of hype around coconut products that overall aren’t backed by sound science. That’s not to say this oil is going to make you sick, but don’t go overboard. “I am not anti-coconut oil,” says Weinandy. “Our bodies do need some saturated fat. But the industry has done a good job to make it seem like it’s a superfood. The research is definitely not there.”

That doesn’t mean it should be banned from the pantry. Saturated fats can be a healthier oil to use when you’re cooking at a very high temperature or frying food (something that definitely should be done in moderation), because they are more stable at high heat. This means that they are less likely to break down and smoke.

Vegetable oil

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The term “vegetable oil” is used to refer to any oil that comes from plant sources, and the healthfulness of a vegetable oil depends on its source and what it’s used for. Most vegetable oils on the market are a blend of canola, corn, soybean, safflower, palm and sunflower oils. “Generally I tell people to use olive oil whenever you can instead of a corn or a soybean oil,” says Weinandy. They’re not necessarily bad for you, she says, “but you can get so much more benefit from olive oil.”

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Still, vegetable oils are refined and processed, which means they not only lack flavor, but also nutrients, Howard says. “Vegetable oil is guaranteed to be highly processed. It’s called ‘vegetable’ so that the manufacturers can substitute whatever commodity oil they want—soy, corn, cottonseed, canola—without having to print a new label,” she says. “Processed oils have been pushed past their heat tolerance and have become rancid in the processing.” Some of these oils, especially palm, are associated with more degradation of land for production, Howard says.

Canola oil

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Canola oil is derived from rapeseed, a flowering plant, and contains a good amount of monounsaturated fats and a decent amount of polyunsaturated fats. Of all vegetable oils, canola oil tends to have the least amount of saturated fats. It has a high smoke point, which means it can be helpful for high-heat cooking. That being said, in the United States, canola oil tends to be highly processed, which means fewer nutrients overall. “Cold-pressed” or unprocessed canola oil is available, but it can be difficult to find.

Avocado oil

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Avocado oil is a great choice. It’s unrefined like extra virgin olive oil, but it has a higher smoking point, which means it can be used to cook at higher heat and is great for stir-frys. It doesn’t have much flavor, which makes it a good option for cooking. “It’s just creamy, like an avocado,” says Howard. Avocado oil contains both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (it has one of the highest monounsaturated fat contents among cooking oils) as well as vitamin E. One downside is that it tends to be more expensive.

Sunflower oil

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This oil is high in vitamin E; one tablespoon contains 28% of a person’s daily recommended intake of the nutrient. It has a high smoke point and doesn’t have a strong flavor, which means it won’t overwhelm a dish. However, sunflower oil contains a lot of omega-6 fatty acids. The body needs them, but omega-6s are thought to be pro-inflammatory, while omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. Consuming too many omega-6s without balancing with omega 3s, could lead to an excess inflammation in the body, so moderation is key.

Peanut oil

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Nut oils, like peanut, can be fun to experiment with in the kitchen, especially since there are so many different types. Peanut oil has one of the highest monounsaturated fat contents among cooking oils. It’s usually flavorful with a nutty taste and smell, and cooks well at high heat.

Walnut oil

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This oil has a low smoke point, so it’s not good for cooking, but it can be used in plenty of other ways. Howard drizzles the oil over pancakes, freshly cut fruit and ice cream. She also adds it to her frothed milk for coffee drinks. Walnut oil has a good ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which helps keep inflammation in check.

Flaxseed oil

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Flaxseed oil is high in omega 3s and has a very low smoke point, which means it also shouldn’t be used for cooking. “I use for dressing,” says Weinandy. Make sure it’s stored at a low-temperature location, like in the refrigerator.

Sesame oil

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This oil is often used for its potent flavor; a little goes a long way. It contains both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, though it’s not especially high in other nutrients. It has a higher smoke point and can be used for high-heat recipes.

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All oils aren’t equal. With so many on the shelves to choose from, which should you use for which kind of cooking?

With Australian olive oil growers all but squeezing the last juice out of this year’s crop, now is an excellent time to consume it, since it should be eaten as fresh as possible.

I love dipping fresh bread into a good quality extra virgin olive oil but I’m using it a lot for shallow-frying, too. I even used it for deep-frying recently but the price (and reduced health benefits – antioxidants start to disappear when you raise the temperature) are prohibitive when you look at all the other oils available.

My interest in oils started with a radical new way of frying chips, gleaned from Nigella Lawson’s Nigellissima series. She cuts fat potato chips, dries them with a tea towel and places them in a pan with cold sunflower oil. She then heats to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally to prevent burning and sticking, adding garlic and other herbs for flavour when they’re nearly done.

It was a revelation. My chips turned out great: crisp and brown on the outside with a nice, fluffy interior. But even though she claims the cooking method results in very little oil being absorbed by the potatoes – apparently due to the temperature, rather than the cooking time – I didn’t quite believe it. Plus, the sheer volume of oil I was going through spooked me (there are places you can dispose of your oil, by the way – check with your local council – and never pour it down the sink). But the health question mark continued to niggle. Should I really be feeding this stuff to my kids? What are the health issues with oils and how do they differ?

Even a cursory internet search on this topic can lead you down a rabbit hole of scientific claims and counterclaims. So, with that in mind, I put together a list of common culinary oils, how best to use them in the kitchen and some tips from nutritionists, including author Catherine Saxelby (see foodwatch.com.au) and Associate Professor of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at Latrobe University, Catherine Itsiopoulos. Finally, some scientific help came from Rod Mailer, a research fellow with Charles Sturt University and Chakra Wijesundera, a research fellow with the CSIRO. Thanks also for help from Beth Scholes at the Heart Foundation.

Are you cooking with the correct oil? Photo: William Meppem

Some general principles

Refined oils are more stable and better suited to high-temperature cooking such as deep-frying than unrefined (mechanically pressed such as extra virgin) oils. These oils tend to have higher smoke points, the temperature zone at which the oil starts to break down and give off acrid and sometimes toxic fumes.

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Smoke points vary in any given oil due to the quality of the oil, its specific terroir and any impurities that might be present. This, coupled with the fact that the longer you heat an oil the lower the smoke point becomes, means re-using oil for cooking is generally a bad idea. The smoke point temperatures in this story are best understood in comparison with each other and serve only as a rough guide.

All oils break down over time and become rancid, characterised by an unpleasant odour or flavour. Although eating rancid oil won’t kill you straight away, long-term consumption has been linked to obesity, early aging and cancer.

Store all oils in a cool, dark place away from heat (such as your stove) to prolong their life and guard against rancidity.

Extra virgin olive oil

The highest quality olive oil it is made by mechanically pressing olives and applying centrifugal force to separate the oil from water. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) must contain no more than 0.8 per cent free fatty acids (virgin olive oil must have less than two per cent). While most Australian EVOO producers adhere to these standards, questions remain about the integrity of some imported brands. EVOO is best consumed within 12 months of harvest and up to six weeks after opening the bottle.

Best for? With its vivid colours and rich flavours it’s ideal for salad dressings, eating with bread and drizzling over dishes. But according to research carried out by Cobram, Australia’s largest olive oil supplier, high quality EVOO can reach smoke points at temperatures of between 200-215 degrees , making it a healthy option for most types of cooking, including oven baking.

Nutritionist’s tip? Natural antioxidants and vitamins A, D, E and K make this one of the healthiest oils to eat. Research has shown good quality EVOO reduces the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

A blend of virgin or extra virgin oil with lampante olive oil (obtained from used olive pulp, which in that state is unfit for human consumption). The blend is then refined, usually by a chemical process that involves bleaching and deodorising. While this makes the oil more stable and neutral in flavour, the process strips most if not all of its natural colour, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Often marketed as “pure” or “light” olive oil.

Best for? An all-rounder cooking oil, especially for Mediterranean food, suitable for shallow and deep-frying due to its relatively high smoke point. Also good for use in cakes as flavour is relatively neutral.

Nutritionist’s tip? High levels of monounsaturated fatty acids make it a generally healthy dietary fat but refinement cancels out many of its stellar health benefits.

Buttery-tasting, vivid green avocado oil has a similar fatty profile to olive oil, so it’s high in monounsaturated fats with some saturated and polyunsaturated fats mixed in. Unrefined extra virgin avocado oil is obtained by pressing the pulp and separating the natural oil in a centrifuge. Due to its unusually high smoke point (up to 250 degrees , it’s ideal for high-temperature grilling or pan-roasting but costly at about four times the price of extra virgin olive oil.

Best for? Frying vegetables such as brussels sprouts and drizzling over home-made pizzas.

Nutritionist’s tip? Antioxidants present can help with eye health and, like EVOO, by drizzling it on your food you can help your body absorb fat-soluble antioxidants present in vegetables, such as beta-carotene.

Macadamia oil

Known for its mildly nutty to gloriously buttery flavour, this specialty oil grown extensively in northern NSW is an excellent addition to sweet or savoury dishes. It’s often advertised as “cold-pressed”, which just means it’s been mechanically extracted in a technique similar to extra virgin olive oil. High in monounsaturates (about 80 per cent), it’s more stable than many other polyunsaturated fats and has a high smoke point of between 210C and 234 degrees. .

Best for? Pan-frying fish, veal and flavouring cakes and slices, and in salad dressings.

Nutritionist’s tip? A good oil for heart health because it’s so high in monounsaturated fats, which are known to lower blood cholesterol or LDL (“bad” cholesterol).

Extracted from the seeds of sunflowers, it is usually refined, a process that involves the use of chemical solvents such as hexane. While this process makes it more stable and therefore suitable for high-temperature cooking, it does strip out some naturally occurring nutrients.

Best use? With a smoke point around 225 degrees, sunflower oil is good for deep-frying dishes such as tempura and chips.

Nutritionist’s tip? It’s high in polyunsaturated fats, which have been shown to lower cholesterol, particularly the “bad” LDL cholesterol. The Heart Foundation recommends it as a suitable replacement for butter.

Made from one of the oldest oilseed crops around, most sesame oils you’ll find are solvent extracted and refined, although it is possible to buy mechanically extracted Australian sesame oil. Typically, it’s equally high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (the Heart Foundation recommends you use it to replace saturated fats, such as butter).

Best use? Given its strong flavour, it’s best used as an additive, particularly to Asian dishes such as stir-fries. It’s also an excellent addition to marinades and sauces.

Nutritionist’s tip? Sesame oil is high in vitamin K, which is great for blood coagulation and bone strength.

Similar to macadamia oil with predominantly monounsaturated fats, this fragrant oil, sometimes known as groundnut oil, has a relatively high smoke point at about 230 degrees. Made by pressing peanut kernels, the crude oil has a deep yellow colour, nutty aroma and sweet taste; refined peanut oil is light yellow in colour and neutral in flavour.

Best for? Asian cooking, especially stir-fries.

Nutritionist’s tip? While refined peanut oil is allergen-free, cold-pressed or crude peanut is not and should be avoided by people susceptible to anaphylaxis.

A variant of rapeseed oil, it’s the largest oil crop grown in Australia and is extracted from the canola plant, specially bred in Canada in the 1970s (the name canola is derived from “Canada oil low acid”). Canola oil is light and clear with a neutral flavour; it’s high in monounsaturates, low in saturated fat and has plenty of omega-3s. It’s more stable at high temperatures because it’s refined but then again, the refining process itself raises questions about the healthiness of the oil. In short, a good oil for quick frying but not for drizzling over finished dishes.

Best use? You’ll find it already added to foods such as oven-baked chips and frozen fish fillets but with a high smoke point of around 205 degrees canola is a good all-purpose cooking oil. It does become unstable after heating, so never reuse.

Nutritionist’s tip? There’s a strong anti-canola movement at the moment but pay no attention. The confusion may stem from the dangerous erucic acid that was present in the old rapeseed plants – modern canola is fine.

Also known as linseed oil, it’s a clear to yellow-coloured oil made by pressing the dried, ripe seeds of the flax plant. With a fatty acid profile higher in polyunsaturated fats it’s packed with the highest amount of plant-based omega-3s of all these oils but can develop “off” flavours, so buy in small quantities and store in a cool, dark place, such as the fridge. Tends to be a dietary supplement oil.

Best for? Adding to smoothies, yoghurt or bland foods such as quark to enhance flavour. This is not a cooking oil.

Nutritionist’s tip? Research says that it’s better to obtain your omega-3s from oily fish and grass-fed meats so, while it’s an interesting oil, it’s not essential.

Rice bran oil

Extracted from the bran and the germ, this neutral-tasting oil has a low viscosity and a relatively high smoke point (around 260 degrees, ) making it ideal for roasting and cooking subtle ingredients, such as seafood. It has an unusual mix of fatty acids – roughly half-and-half monounsaturated and polyunsaturated – and some good plant sterols but it’s industrially processed, not mechanically extracted (or “cold-pressed”, as some people refer to the process where extra virgin olive oil is produced).

Best use? High-heat stir-frying or wok-frying.

Nutritionist’s tip? Don’t be confused by packaging that talks about being “extra cold-filtered” – it’s got nothing to do with the positive health benefits associated with extra virgin olive oil.

Also known as copra oil, this oil is extracted from the meat of matured coconuts. The jury is still out on just how healthy it is (it’s very high in saturated fats at more than 90 per cent) but one thing is clear – stay away from hydrogenated coconut oil, which undergoes a process of extreme heat and pressure and the introduction of hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst (usually a metal) to make the oil more stable and last longer. The process makes the oil more viscous, as it will your blood, making your heart work harder. Virgin or extra virgin coconut oil, on the other hand, is a popular vegan replacement for butter in cooking.

Best use? Its natural sweetness makes it ideal for baking and certain sauteed dishes. A low smoke point (about 175 degrees) makes it not great for high-temperature cooking, such as deep-frying.

Nutritionist’s tip? It’s a good source of lauric acid, which has been shown to increase HDL or “good” cholesterol levels but there are plenty of kilojoules, so adjust your intake accordingly.

Cottonseed oil

Light and neutral-flavoured, cottonseed oil is a major oil in Australia and a byproduct of the cotton-growing industry. It’s relatively inexpensive and high in vitamin E. This highly stable (refined) oil was often used in chip shops for deep frying (you can use it multiple times before the smoke point is compromised) and said to produce a crisp, attractive chip. A mix of predominantly saturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Best use? Occasionally for deep-frying.

Nutritionist’s tip? With a saturated fat level of about 27 per cent, cottonseed will never get the Heart Foundation tick (20 per cent is the cut-off).

This is a stable, refined, plant-based oil but the difficulty is you never really know what it’s made of. In Australia, where a lot of canola oil is produced, your vegetable oil could well be 99 per cent canola – it could also be blended with soybean or sunflower. Usually the cheapest option at the supermarket; check the nutrition label on the back to determine specific levels of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Best use? Deep-frying and high-temperature cooking.

Nutritionist’s tip? If the saturated fat content is above 20 grams per 100 grams, consider something else.

Oil 101

■ All fats, including oils, are a combination of three fatty acids: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats

■ Saturated fats (found in butter and coconut oil) tend to be solid at room temperature and not good to consume in large amounts because they may contribute to heart disease although there is controversy surrounding this at present

■ Monounsaturated fats (found in abundance in olive, macadamia and canola oil) are usually liquid at room temperature and are the healthiest fats because they lower “bad LDL-cholesterol” while leaving “good cholesterol” levels the same.

■ Polyunsaturated fats (common in sunflower and cottonseed oil) are also liquid at room temperature but have been found to lower both “bad” and “good” cholesterol.

■ Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been altered and behave like saturated fats. They can be found in some oils that have been heated during processing and in partially-hydrogenated fats in take-aways and are bad for health because they increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Sources used for the story other than people mentioned:

■ Smoke points of cooking oils

Comparison of saturated and unsaturated fats in oils

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