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What’s The Deal With All These Cooking Oils?

We’ve all heard of your standard vegetable or olive oil, but when you start throwing around grapeseed and walnut, things start to get sticky. So I did a little research, and with the help of, I got my answer about cooking oils, and now, so do you.

A good rule of thumb is that you should always have more than one type of cooking oil on hand. Moreover, you should always consider the oil’s smoke point, or the temperature at which the oil begins to produce smoke and turn your food from tasty to just downright gross. The oil breaks down and causes the food to not only lose its flavor, but also its nutritional value. At some point, you might as well just inject yourself with cholesterol. Oils more suited for a lower temperature also work well with cold preparations, such as for use in making salad dressings.

If you’re cooking at a low temperature or baking, flaxseed oil, unrefined olive oil, walnut oil, and your traditional butter (not margarine) will work best. Not only do these oils add a natural, complementary flavor to the dish, but they have all of the free fatty acids which make them healthier than other oils.

Coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, and corn oil are the best options when cooking with medium heat and frying. If you’re deep drying, however, or grilling on high-heat, sesame, peanut, palm, soybean, and avocado oils will suit your needs best. They can withstand the most heat without compromising the quality of the meal.

Here’s a helpful abridged table originally published on that’ll help you become a more informed chef:

Fat or Oil Description Usage
Almond Subtle toasted almond aroma and flavor Sauté and stir fry of Oriental foods
Avocado Soft, nutty taste with a mild avocado aroma. Healthy oil for use with high temperatures Stir frying, searing
Butter Mix of fats, milk solids, and moisture derived from churning cream Baking, cooking
Canola Light, golden-colored oil, particularly good with cold preparations All-purpose oil, used in salads and cooking
Coconut Heavy, colorless oil extracted from fresh coconut Coatings, confectionery, shortening
Corn Mild, medium-yellow oil made from the germ of the corn kernel Light dishes, frying, salad dressings, shortening
Grapeseed By-product of wine-making Sautéing, frying, salad dressings
Olive Varies in weight with color depending on fruit used and processing. Ranges from extra virgin selection used for low temperatures, to extra light for used with high temperatures General cooking, salad dressings, sauté, pan fry, searing, deep frying, grilling, broiling, baking
Peanut Subtle scent and flavor, made from steam-cooked peanuts Primarily used with Asian dishes
Vegetable The average kitchen’s go-to oil made by blending several different refined oils and designed to have a milder flavor Cooking, salad dressings
Walnut Medium-yellow oil with a nutty flavor and aroma—more perishable than most oils Deep frying, searing, stir frying, grilling, broiling

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