Types of Cooking Oils: The Best and Worst Types of Oils For Cooking

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Types of Cooking Oil: The Best and Worst Types of Oil for Cooking
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There are some types of cooking oils that are better for you than others. The best kinds of cooking oils for frying, roasting, or sautéing generally have a high smoke point and don’t break down at high temperatures. Other types of oil are better for drizzling on salads or fresh vegetables as they taste delicious, have lower smoke point and may even be good for your health in moderation.

When it comes to choosing the best kind of oil for your recipes, it can be difficult to know which is the best. Some types of cooking oils change their flavor when heated to high temperatures. Even healthy types of oil such as extra virgin olive oil may lose their health benefits when used for frying. Other types of cooking oil such as vegetable oils are touted by some people as healthier alternatives to cooking with saturated fats.

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In this article, you will find out about the best oils to use when cooking. You will also learn about the different characteristics of 14 different types of cooking oil.

Types of Cooking Oils – Things to Consider

When picking a good cooking oil, you should take into consideration a number of factors.

For example, if you are using oils for drizzling or very light frying, then taste and levels of fatty acids and unsaturated fats are important. If you decide to shallow fry or deep fry food, then considering what happens to different oils under heat is essential.

When some oils get too hot, good compounds break down, and dangerous trans fats and carcinogens can develop. Therefore, the best oils for cooking at high temperatures are ones with a high smoke point.

Why are smoke points important when choosing the right type of oil for cooking?

Scientists say that when oil starts to smoke, it loses its stability, and chemical changes take place in the oil. This leads to oxidation and deterioration of the cooking oil. (1)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

olive oil for cooking

Type of cooking oil: Extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is one of the best and healthiest oils used for sautéing, making dips or drizzling over salads.

The smoke point of extra virgin olive oil is 375°F (191°C). Therefore, this isn’t the best oil for pan frying or deep frying at high temperatures. (2)

Extra virgin olive oil is extracted from the fruit of olive trees. The best types of olive oil are the cold pressed and unrefined varieties. This minimal processing of extra virgin olive oil gives most kinds of olive oil a spicy, fruity, or even buttery taste.

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Due to the fact that olive oil has a relatively low smoke point, it is not the best high temperature cooking oil. If you want to use olive oil in cooking, then the best way to use it is for light frying.

You can also combine extra virgin olive oil with red wine vinegar in a delicious healthy vinaigrette recipe. Even just drizzling some olive oil over mozzarella cheese and tomatoes can add a lot of flavor to this simple dish.

Further reading: Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Olive Oil (Extra Virgin, Pure, Unrefined).

Light Olive Oil

Light olive oil is best used for frying or roasting rather than drizzling on salads. This type of olive oil doesn’t have much flavor, is very versatile, and is better for cooking with than the extra virgin type.

The smoke point of refined olive oil is 470°F (243°C).

Light olive oil is a refined oil that has the color, aroma, and flavor removed from the oil. The best types of light olive oil are filtered using natural methods to keep the structure of the oil intact.

Some types of light olive oil are sold as “Pure olive oil” or just “Olive oil” and may be a mixture of extra virgin olive oil and refined olive oil. Because it has a high smoke point, the oil keeps stable even at high temperatures.

Interestingly, some studies have shown that olive oil is better for frying than vegetable oil. Unlike vegetable oil, many of the antioxidants in olive oil still remain even after frying. (3)

Avocado Oil

avocado oil for cooking

Type of cooking oil: Avocado oil

Avocado oil is best used for roasting, sautéing, and grilling.

The smoke point of unrefined avocado oil is 480°F (249°C) and refined avocado oil is 520°F (271°C). So, avocado oil is an extremely good high heat cooking oil to use in the kitchen.

Avocado oil is pressed from the green fleshy avocado pulp. This makes avocado oil a unique type of oil that even has many health benefits.

Avocado oil is good for you because it is high in monounsaturated fatty acids. It has a rich buttery flavor and is one of the most versatile kinds of oils you can use in the kitchen. For example, you can use avocado oil to create a delicious healthy stir fry or roast vegetables. Or, you can use it as a drizzle or ingredient in a vinaigrette recipe.

Being an oil with one of the highest smoke points on this list, you can use it for high-heat frying.

Further reading: Proven Health Benefits of Avocado Oil Based on Science.

Grapeseed Oil

The best way to use grapeseed oil when cooking is for light frying or using in a salad dressing.

The smoke point of grapeseed oil is moderately high at 420°F (215°C).

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Grapeseed oil is pressed from the seeds of grapes and has a light-green color and mild flavor. Oil pressed from grape seeds is also on the list of healthy oils to consume. It is rich in healthy polyunsaturated fat and vitamin E and is an example of a versatile type of cooking oil.

Due to its light mild taste, grapeseed oil is a good ingredient for vinaigrettes, dressing, or sauces. Its mild flavor doesn’t overpower other ingredients and allows herbs and garlic flavors to come through.

Coconut Oil

coconut oil for cooking

Coconut oil is a type of cooking oil that is solid at a room temperature below 76 °F (24 °C)

The best way to use coconut oil is for roasting meat or vegetables on a moderate heat. Virgin unrefined coconut oil is one of the few cooking oils that infuses food with tropical aromas.

The smoke point of unrefined coconut oil is between 350°F and 375 °F (176°C-190°C). Refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point of 450°F (232°C).

You can use virgin unrefined coconut oil it for most types of frying at lower to moderate heat or use it to make coconut-flavored popcorn.

If you don’t like the taste of virgin unrefined coconut oil in your food, or you need to use the oil in higher temperatures, then it’s best to use refined coconut oil. However, it’s good to remember that virgin coconut oil retains more nutrients than refined coconut oil (read more about the differences between the two in my article about refined vs. unrefined coconut oil).

Coconut oil is not the best type of cooking oil to use in dressings or vinaigrettes because it’s solid at room temperature below 76 °F (24 °C).

Further reading: Cooking With Coconut Oil – The Ultimate Guide.

Canola Oil

Canola oil is a type of vegetable oil that is best for deep frying food or pan frying at high temperatures.

The smoke point of canola oil is around 450°F (232°C) which is well above the optimal frying temperature of 356°F (180°C).

Canola oil is pressed from the seeds of the rapeseed plant and is also called rapeseed oil. Being an oil that remains stable at high heat, canola oil is good in a deep fryer. Also, canola oil is a kind of oil with neutral taste, which makes it a popular type of vegetable oil for cooking.

Although canola oil is a widely used type of oil, many health-conscious people stay away from it due to concerns about its negative health impact. Some reports about canola oil seem to indicate that it’s not the healthiest oil due to canola oil being linked with inflammation (read more about it in my article about canola oil dangers according to evidence).

Of course, eating too much fried food, in any case, is not the best way to look after your heart health or weight.

Although canola oil is a cheap type of cooking oil, there are much better and healthier alternatives if you need a high temperature cooking oil.

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Sunflower Oil

sunflower oil for cooking

Type of cooking oil: Sunflower oil

Sunflower oil has a high smoke point and its best use is for frying various types of meat and vegetables.

The smoke point of refined sunflower oil is 450°F (232°C).

Some of the reasons why people use sunflower oil as a frying oil are that it is relatively cheap and doesn’t have a lot of flavor. Because most varieties of sunflower oil are refined, it contains fewer nutrients than the unrefined type of oil.

Similar to sunflower cooking oil is safflower oil. This type of vegetable oil for cooking has a nutritional profile like sunflower oil. Safflower oil is best used for frying rather than drizzling on salads as it doesn’t add any flavor to a salad dressing.

Sunflower oil may not be among the list of healthiest cooking oils as it is high in omega-6. An imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 could contribute to the development of inflammatory diseases.

Palm Oil

palm tree fruit

Palm oil is a type of high heat oil made from the fruit of the oil palm

One of the best uses of palm oil is for frying as it contains no trans fats and remains stable at very high cooking temperatures.

The smoke point of palm oil is 455°F (235°C).

Palm oil is another vegetable oil that is touted as a “healthier” type of frying oil. Because it doesn’t break down at high temperatures, the oil doesn’t oxidize as quickly as other cooking oils. However, palm oil contains a lot of saturated fats which could impact on your heart health. Therefore, not all scientists agree that palm oil should be on the list of healthy cooking oils for frying with. (5)

One of the concerns about the popularity of this kind of cooking oil is its environmental impact. Some reports indicate that mass deforestation is one result of trying to produce enough of this cheap type of cooking oil. (4)

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Flaxseed Oil

flaxseed oil for cooking

Type of cooking oil: Flaxseed oil

The best way to use flaxseed oil is to add a nutty flavor to salads or as a drizzle on fresh or roasted vegetables.

The smoke point of flaxseed oil is 225°F (107°C), making it unsuitable for frying.

Flaxseed oil (also called linseed oil) is one of the best plant-based sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, a tablespoon of this cold-pressed vegetable oil contains 7,196 mg of omega-3. Oil pressed from flaxseeds also contains good levels of vitamin E – a natural antioxidant. (6)

Flaxseed oil is an example of a healthy type of vegetable oil that may help address a number of health concerns.

Because it turns rancid easily, you should always store flaxseed oil in the refrigerator.

Further reading: Proven Health Benefits of Ground Flax Seeds and Flaxseed Meal (Science Based).

Sesame Oil

sesame oil for cooking

Type of oil: Sesame oil

Sesame oil is an aromatic type of oil that is best used as an oil for frying or roasting.

The smoke point of sesame oil is 450°F (232°C), meaning that it holds well under high cooking temperatures.

There are varieties of sesame oil that are good for many different culinary purposes. The light variety of sesame oil is perfect for pan frying meat or roasting vegetables in the oven. The other kind of sesame oil is made from toasted sesame seeds. This dark type of sesame oil is the best type of this oil for drizzling on salads if you want a distinct nutty flavor.

Dark sesame oil is also one of the best cooking oils for stir-fries if you want to enhance the flavor of your Asian dish. The toasted sesame seed oil is also good for lightly frying eggs or making an omelet.

Walnut Oil

Walnut oil is an extremely tasty groundnut oil that tastes amazing in any kind of salad vinaigrette.

As with most unrefined oils, walnut oil has a low smoke point and, therefore, is not suitable for frying.

What is the best way to use walnut oil for consumption? Because walnut oil is quite expensive, you can use it sparingly in salad dressings or in dips mixed with some other healthy oils such as olive oil or avocado oil. This can give your food a nutty taste.

Further reading: Proven Health Benefits of Walnuts, How Many to Eat, and More (Science Based).

Peanut Oil

Peanut oil is a variety of groundnut oil that is perfect for stir-frying at high heat.

The smoke point of refined peanut oil is 450°F (232°C).

Due to its nutty flavor and ability to withstand high cooking temperatures, peanut oil can add plenty of flavor to Asian dishes. You can also deep-fry food using peanut oil without the oil losing its peanut flavor.

However, peanut oil may not be the best oil for all types of fried food. For example, juicy beef steaks may not taste the same if they have overtones of peanut flavors in them.

You can also use an unrefined type of peanut oil as a delicate groundnut oil to flavor salads. The unrefined varieties of peanut oil have a smoke point of 320°F (160°C).

Soybean Oil

soybeans

Soybean oil is a type of high temperature cooking oil made from soybeans

Soybean oil is one of the most commonly used types of high heat oils for frying and deep-frying food.

The smoke point of soybean oil is 495°F (257°C) which means it stays very stable at very high frying temperatures.

Many manufacturers advertise soybean oil as the best oil for cooking is due to its low price, low levels of saturated fats, and long shelf life.

However, many types of soybean oil are hydrogenated which may cause trans fats to develop. In fact, the increased consumption of soybean oil has been linked to an increase in obesity and diabetes. (7, 8)

It seems that soybean oil may not be one of the healthiest cooking oils you can use. You may be interested to learn why some consider soybean oil to be one of the worst ingredients in your food.

Rice Bran Oil

The best use for rice bran oil is for deep frying, sautéing, or roasting due to its high smoke point.

The smoke point rice bran oil is 450°F (232°C)

Rice bran oil is an edible oil produced from the outer husk of rice grains. This type of lightly-flavored oil is a high-temperature cooking oil that doesn’t oxidize under heat.

While rice bran oil contains a good amount of monounsaturated fats and omega-9 fatty acids, which are types of healthy fats, it is also high in omega-6. As previously mentioned, consuming excess amounts of omega-6 can lead to inflammation.

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