If you believe that all cooking oils are interchangeable and serve the same purpose in cooking, then you may need to rethink your beliefs.
The truth is that all the cooking oils are made differently. This results in them being different temperatures, having different smoke points, different shelf lives, and even different nutritional values. Yes, they are similar in many ways as well. But these difference are what really matter while you choose an oil for various purposes in cooking.
Now thinking about the different varieties of oils that are lined up at your local grocery store may get overwhelming if you think that each of these oils serves a different purpose. Nevertheless, there is no need to get confused.
To help you figure out your way around these oils and enhance your skills in the kitchen, we have created this simple guide to help you understand what oil works best for which purpose.
·Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive has been the most popular oil for a while now, and it continues to rule the markets. The reason behind this is that olive oil is an unrefined oil which is full of nutrients and antioxidants. It is also a staple in Mediterranean diet, which is currently considered to be one of the best diets to maintain a healthy lifestyle. EVOO is untouched by heat or chemicals, and contains the highest amount of natural vitamins and minerals, as well as monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. All of this makes it one of the healthiest oils available for consumption.
Since extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point, it is not recommended for cooking as it can heat quickly and burn. It can be used for sautéing at low to moderate heat or roasting at lower levels of heat. However, the best use of EVOO is to use it as dipping, dressings or for drizzling over foods and dishes for added flavor.
Another oil that has remained popular for a long time is coconut oil. This is because coconut oil is basically an all rounder, as it provides many benefits for skin, hair, and of course, cooking. Coconut oil contains fats that can be more easily converted into energy as compared to other fats. This helps boost metabolism, curb appetite and can also aid in weight loss.
The best way to add coconut oil to your lifestyle is by replacing some of your usual fats with it. It has a moderate smoke level, which makes it great for sautéing, roasting and cooking at medium temperatures. It can add some major health benefits to any dish while brightening up its flavor as well. Coconut oil can also be used as a great substitute for butter or other fats in baking. Since coconut oil solidifies at room temperature, it isn’t a good idea to use it in salad dressing, vinaigrettes or marinades.
This oil isn’t that common yet and is a bit on the pricier side, but it definitely deserves a space in your kitchen. Instead of being pressed from the seed as most other oils, avocado oil is actually extracted from the fruit itself; as in the creamy goodness that makes guacamole. It is a heart-healthy oil that contains anti-inflammatory properties, and helps reduce blood pressure and prevent arterial damage and heart disease. And the best part is that it is super versatile and delicious.
The great thing about avocado oil is that it is one of the few natural oils that have a high smoking point. This means that you can use avocado oil for almost any purpose in the kitchen without the fear of overheating or burning it. Additionally, it can also be used to make homemade mayo. All you need is 2 egg yolks, 2 tablespoon lemon juice, salt and a cup of avocado oil. Blend it all together, and you can have sugar-free, preservative-free organic mayo.
Sesame oil Is loaded with powerful antioxidants, including sesamol and sesamin. These help in slowing down cell growth and replication. Sesame oil can also help reduce blood pressure, blood sugar while also improving the skin. In addition to that, it can provide up to 17% of the daily requirement of vitamin K, which prevents clotting and provides support to the bones.
Sesame oil has a very distinct flavor, which can add a nutty flavor to any dish. The conventional sesame oil that you usually find has a very high smoke point, and can be used for any kind of cooking purposes and can add some strong flavors to dishes like stir-fries and Asian dips. However, if you want to use it in salad dressings, vinaigrettes or marinades, it is better to opt for the cold pressed sesame oil which is extracted from unroasted seeds.
The problem with flaxseed oils is that it has so many benefits, but the taste isn’t something that everyone can tolerate. However, various studies have shown that consuming flaxseed oil on a daily basis has a positive effect on your digestive system, and you can benefit greatly from it if you suffer from constipation. In addition to that, it has also been shown to reduce high cholesterol and heart disease.
Flaxseed has a low smoking point, and heating it can reduce all the amazing benefits it can provide. So it is not suitable for cooking. It can also have a funky smell and flavor if too much is added to any dish. For best results, add small amounts of it in dressing or in smoothies.
·Pumpkin Seed Oil
Another oil that isn’t so common, but probably should be due to the high amount of nutrients it contains. Pumpkin seed oil is rich in vitamins A, K and E, along with packing in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, making it a power-packed food.
Although pumpkin seed oil has a moderately high smoking point, some of its nutritional value can get lost due to heating. Hence, it is better suited for light sautéing or baking at lower temperatures. It has a nutty flavor, which makes it a great addition to salad dressing, marinade bases, dips, and surprisingly, even pairs well with ice-cream.
Grapeseed can often be found as a common ingredient in skin and hair products. However, it has medicinal properties that can make it a healthy addition to cooking as well. Due to its mild, almost non-existent taste, grapeseed oil does not overpower other ingredients in the dish. It is a great source of vitamin C and essential fatty acids. Be sure to consume it in moderate amounts, as the high amount of omega-6 fatty acids can lead to inflammation and weight gain. Since grapeseed oil is usually sold for skin and hair care purposes, make sure to look for the ones labeled as Food Grade for culinary purposes.
The smoking point of grapeseed oil is very high. Hence, it can be used in any type of cooking, including frying, sautéing, searing, roasting, baking, etc., while also being a great addition to vinaigrettes and marinades. The mild taste makes it perfect to experiment in various foods. Grapeseed oil can be used to caramelize onions and mushrooms for a great sweet side dish.
Walnuts are a goldmine of nutritional benefits. Since the oil is extracted without the use of heat or chemicals, most of these nutritional benefits translate into it as well. Walnut oil is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, while it also holds significant amounts of iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium. Walnut oil has a rich and nutty flavor which pairs well with most things. People who consume diets that are rich in walnuts and walnut oil have been observed to have a better response to stress, while also being able to keep diastolic blood pressure levels in check.
Is it best to use walnut oil uncooked, as heating can cause it to go bitter. However, it can be used as a great addition to salad dressings, pasta, soups, etc. You can also make a delicious homemade chocolate hazelnut spread with it. You’ll need 1 cup of roasted hazelnuts, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and 1 tablespoon of walnut oil. Blend all of these ingredients in a high-speed blender until you get a creamy consistency. You can add a little more oil if the consistency is too thick for your liking.
Peanut oil is low in saturated fats, and is mostly made up of monounsaturated fatty acid content. These can aid in lowering bad cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol. However, it is high in calories as well as omega-6 fatty acids. So it is important to use this oil in moderation, as going too high can mess up the omega 3:6 ratio in your body and can also cause weight-gain. Look for peanut oils that are cold-pressed and unrefined.
Peanut oil is a staple in Asian dishes, and can be cooked in a variety of ways. It has a high smoking point that is suitable for frying. It can also add a great flavor to stir-fried chicken or lightly sautéed vegetables.
·Hemp Seed Oil
There are some serious benefits of consuming hemp seed oil. It has properties that can help reduce cholesterol, control metabolism and heal skin. Also known as hemp oil, it has a subtle flavor that can pair well with many dishes.
Hemp seed oil is another oil that loses all its flavor and nutrients once it is heated, so it is best not to cook with it. Instead, it can be used as a finishing oil in dips, hummus, salads, weight loss smoothies, sandwich spreads, etc. This way, you can reap the maximum benefits from this oil.
Canola oil is one of the more common oils found in most households because it is versatile and relatively affordable. On the other hand, it also gets a bad reputation for being unhealthy. However, this isn’t entirely true. Canola oil has a near-even ratio of omega-3 to omega 6 fatty acids. Medical conditions such as asthma, arthritis, and even cancer, can be fought with this dietary ratio. It is also high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an essential omega-3 fatty acids that plays a significant role in the maintenance of weight.
Canola oil has a relatively high smoking point and a neutral flavor that makes it a very versatile oil. It can easily be used in everyday cooking, from chicken to vegetables and eggs. However, it is important to not go overboard with the use of any oil; regardless of what kind it is.
If that is too much information for you to remember, then here’s an easy cheat sheet that you can consider while grocery shopping for oils next time.
Oils that can be heated as high as you like:
Oils for moderate heat cooking
Oils for low heat cooking:
Extra virgin olive oil
Pumpkin seed oil
Oils that should not be heated:
Hemp seed oil
Oils that go well raw as well as moderate heating:
Extra virgin olive oil
Pumpkin seed oil
It is likely that you will have to purchase more than one oil in order to meet all your needs. But they will also end up lasting longer, so it’s not like you will be wasting money. Just make sure to remember which oil needs to be used for what purpose.