Cooking With Oil 101
Sure, by now you know that cooking with the unsaturated fats of oils is better for your health than using the saturated fats found in butter, but did you know that olive oil isn’t the only kind of healthy cooking oil out there? In fact, there are at least ten cooking oils that you should be using on a regular basis depending on what you’re making (and how you’re preparing it). You see, different oils are better for different uses because they don’t all share the same qualities. Oils you may use in frying you wouldn’t want to try in baking, and oils you bake with you wouldn’t want to use to make your salad dressings.
10 Cooking Oils & Their Uses
1. Avocado Oil
Avocado oil is a health lover’s dream come true. Due to its high smoke point and neutral flavor it is a great choice when you’re frying foods. Canola and vegetable oils also share these qualities with avocado oil but they are more processed which can be a turnoff if you’re looking to avoid refined foods in your diet. Avocado oil also happens to be packed with monounsaturated fats, which are good for your heart health and have less saturated fats per serving than coconut oil. The only down side we can find with avocado oil is that it’s a bit more expensive than the other oils on this list. But if you want quality, sometimes you have to pay the price.
2. Canola Oil
Canola oil is most heavily associated with frying, so many people tend to think of it as an unhealthy oil option, but that’s not the case. It just happens to have a high smoke point and a fairly neutral taste, which makes it ideal for frying, roasting or baking. It is worth noting that canola has been chemically processed to produce a high smoke point, so if you’re avoiding refined foods in your diet this may not be the cooking oil for you. Since it has a naturally low saturated fat content though it is considered a healthy cooking oil. I would avoid using this oil while sauteing or making salad dressings though as it doesn’t add much flavoring of its own.
3. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil may be a beauty secret miracle, but when it comes to cooking take heed before downing copious amounts of this cooking oil. Be warned that coconut oil does happen to have quite a bit of saturated fat in it, but its fats raise both HDL and LDL cholesterols together meaning that their ratios are never blown out of proportion, which is a plus. Since it is the ratio that is the most important when it comes to heart health coconut oil is still a much better solution than butter in cooking situations such as baking when you need a thick and creamy texture from your fat source. Be aware that you can use coconut oil for sauteing and roasting as well, but it has a low smoke point, which means that it may turn your food into a burning mess long before other higher smoke point oils.
4. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
There are plenty of pros when it comes to using extra-virgin olive oil on your food but the two most noteworthy are the fact that it has a high concentration of monounsaturated fats, which are healthy for your heart, and it has a natural flavor profile adds new dimensions to any food it’s added to. For these two reasons it is best used for drizzling on your finished food, and sauteing. Be careful when you are using it to saute your meals though as it does have a fairly low smoke point which can create an unpleasant aroma or taste in your foods if they’re sauted at too high of a temperature. Cooking extra-virgin olive oil also has the potential to break it down and diminish its natural flavor and nutritional properties, so it might be best to save this oil as a finishing drizzle.
5. Flaxseed Oil
Another good drizzling option comes in the form of flaxseed oil. Do not make the mistake of trying to actually do any cooking with this oil though. It is far too sensitive to heat to make a good cooking oil. What it does well though, is create a fantastically nutritious base for salad dressings. Due to its high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, it’s an especially solid choice for those who do not eat enough fish in their regular diet and since it is a naturally occurring source, it is a better option than taking a supplement.
6. Peanut Oil
If you’re looking for an oil that’s going to add a whole lot of flavor to whatever it is that you’re cooking then look no further than peanut oil. Perhaps I should add that the whole lot of flavor this oil will be adding is actually peanut, so it works best in peanut butter cookies, stir frys and other things that you actually want to taste like the popular nut. It’s high smoke point does make it a perfect choice for frying as well, and since it’s low in saturated fat it’s a healthy choice as far as frying oils go. The only thing to be cautious about with this cooking oil is that it is chemically processed so it might be out if you’re steering clear of refined foods.
7. Pure Olive Oil
While we don’t suggest using extra-virgin olive oil for frying up any foods or roasting at high temperatures, there is an option if you want to use olive oil and that is pure olive oil. It has a high smoke point which makes it a perfectly good option for high heat cooking. There is a downside to this choice though and that is that it’s not as flavorful as extra-virgin olive oil and it doesn’t have nearly as many heart healthy fats. And if refined foods aren’t for you then you’ll want to stay away from it, because it has been chemically processed. The beauty of pure olive oil though is that it allows the true flavors of the dish to seep through in the cooking process whether you’re frying, sauteing or roasting your dish.
8. Safflower Oil
Congratulations, you’ve stumbled upon the cooking oil with the highest smoke point on this list, which means that it’s a great choice for frying, sauteing and roasting your food. Although it is available in a chemically processed form it is also available in a cold-pressed form making it a viable option even if you are eating only non-refined foods, and the best part of all? No matter which you choose you can still enjoy that high smoke point. As a bonus this cooking oil is high in omega-9 fatty acids and low in saturated fats which makes it a heart healthy choice for all of your basic cooking needs. The only downside to this cooking oil is that the naturally neutral flavor does not bode well as a salad dressing base. Other than that you’ve got a real winner here.
9. Sesame Oil
Flavorful and unrefined, sesame oil is a great option for those who prefer to eat natural foods. Although it does have a relatively low smoke point it is often used for sauteing, and gives food an extra burst of flavor that other, more neutrally flavored oils, won’t. We do not suggest using this oil to fry or roast any of your meals however, as if it reaches temperatures higher than 350 degrees F it may create an unpleasant aroma and taste in your dish. On the plus side, if you’re concerned about the risk of allergy issues, as with peanut oil, you can use sesame oil instead and still enjoy plenty of delicious flavor.
10. Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oil is one of the least expensive oils on this list, and one of the easiest to get your hands on no matter where you are. It is also relatively versatile when it comes to cooking since it has a neutral flavor that doesn’t interfere with the natural tastes of any foods. That being said it doesn’t offer much in the way of nutrients or added flavor. It is chemically processed though, which gives it a high smoke point and makes it a perfect candidate for baking, roasting and frying a multitude of different dishes.
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