The Top 6 Cooking Oils and How to Use Them
The days of butter and lard are over. The time for cooking oil is here. Just take a trip to any grocery store around the nation, and you will see dozens of types of cooking oil on the shelves with an endless array of vegetable, seed, and fruit oils repped by at least five different brands.
You may feel overwhelmed by the variety of cooking oil options on the market, but instead of just sticking with the generic vegetable oil, you should venture out of your comfort zone. Cooking oils of all kinds have different properties that impart delicious flavor or assist a particular cooking process better than others.
We all know the importance of fat in cooking and nutrition, and cooking oil provides flavor and healthy fats to enrich our bodies and taste buds. Still, deciding which types of oils to use for the cooking endeavor in question can be tricky.
We’ll try to demystify the cooking oil madness for you by narrowing the list of cooking oils down to the essential types you always want to have on hand. Below we list the top 6 types of cooking oils and how to use them to showcase their flavor and enhance the execution of your desired dish.
Top 6 Cooking Oils
We’ve chosen a diverse selection of oils for our list of top cooking oils. Each oil has a distinct flavor and lends itself best to specific cooking methods. Whether you want to grill, sauté, dress, or bake your food, the following list provides you with the best types of cooking oils for your project.
Here’s one that’s probably familiar to most of us! Olive oil comes in countless varieties, mostly from Mediterranean countries like Spain, Italy, and Greece. Olive oil’s smoke point is 465°F, making it one of the most adaptable oils on the list. You can use it for sautéing, pan-frying, baking, or dressings.
Olive oil has a distinct flavor that changes depending on the region you’re buying from. For example, Spanish olive oil is fruity and nutty, while Italian olive oil is more earthy and herbal.
You should note the difference between regular olive oil and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), which has a very low smoke point and a much richer flavor. It is also considerably more expensive than regular olive oil.
Because EVOO loses its flavor when you heat it over 300°F, it is best used to drizzle on bread and pasta or combined with an acid to make a delicious salad dressing like vinaigrette or Greek salad dressing.
Canola Oil is a household staple for every dish, from cakes to salad dressings. Its neutral flavor, low price point, and high 450°F smoke point, make it one of the most popular oils on the market. Canola oil is cheap enough to use in large quantities, which is why it should be your go-to frying and deep-frying oil.
You can also use Canola oil in place of butter when baking cakes and bread. While you can use it in salad dressings in a pinch, it doesn’t impart any flavor, so you may want to use it in a mix of olive oil or sesame oil if you’re on a budget and want to make the more expensive oils last.
Coconut oil has become a very popular substitute for butter in recent years. Vegetarians and vegans swear by it to make all their baked goods, stir-fries, and roasted veggies. Coconut oil is a white solid mass at room temperature, becoming liquid with heat, which may be off-putting or intimidating at first.
However, the oil’s incredibly delicious flavor, high smoke point (°F), and versatility in and out of the kitchen will win you over. Coconut goes exceptionally well with sweet flavors, so it’s an excellent oil for pancakes, banana bread, and chocolate chip cookies. It imparts a great nutty flavor to meat, savory vegetable dishes, and our personal favorite, popcorn.
It’s also safe to use as a moisturizer for your hair and skin, acting as a cooking oil and beauty product.
If you’re a lover of nutty flavors and peanut butter, then you’ll love peanut oil. Its strong peanut flavor lends well to Asian dishes like Pad Thai, peanut dipping sauce, and General Tsao’s chicken. Plus, its 440°F smoke point lends well to deep frying, sauteing, pan-frying, and baking.
Peanut oil is inexpensive, and a little bit goes a long way in terms of flavor if you want to use it in a dressing or dipping sauce. It’s important to note that peanut oil has a much shorter shelf life than most oils, so it’s best to buy small bottles of it at a time unless you use it right away.
Sesame oil’s smoke point is medium at 410°F, so you wouldn’t want to waste it on baking or deep frying. Its distinct flavor often gets showcased in Asian stir-fries, dressings, drizzles, and dipping sauces. You could also use it instead of tahini in hummus or baba ganoush to save some money. That said, sesame oil is more expensive than most of the cooking oils on this list.
The good news is that sesame oil has such a strong flavor that you only need a small amount to impart a delicious and unique flavor to your dish. You can combine sesame oil with canola oil to coat your pans or woks before a stir fry to stretch its lifespan and save money.
Avocado oil has the highest smoke point on our list at a whopping 510°F, making it the best oil for grilling over an unprotected flame or broiling in an oven. You can also use it for frying or sauteing vegetables and meat.
Avocado oil has a deliciously nutty, buttery flavor that works well with most dishes and ingredients and makes for a great drizzling oil or dressing additive. Just like the fruit from which it comes, avocado oil is high in healthy monounsaturated fats that are great for your brain and heart.
The only downside to avocado oil is its price, which is more expensive than the more ubiquitous canola or olive oils. However, its health and taste properties make it a worthy investment.
Now that you know about the diversity of the different types of oils to choose from in your cooking, take a look at some of the exciting cooking classes available on Amphy!