With the rising popularity of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil has become a staple cooking oil in many kitchens. It’s good for heart health and digestion, and is definitely one of the most popular oils. It’s not recommended to use olive oil for cooking at very high temperatures, as the oil breaks down easily and you lose out on flavor and potential health benefits. You can use higher grade extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) to drizzle over salads, pastas, or vegetables, or use it as a healthier alternative to butter. As EVOO is cold-pressed, it retains the intense flavor of olives. On the other hand, you can use refined olive oil for sautéing vegetables at medium temperature, where the flavor of the oil is not an important factor.
Your kitchen is not complete without canola oil, one the most versatile cooking oils out there. It has a high smoking point and little flavor, so it’s suitable for sautéing and frying, but can also be used in baking and salad dressings. You can also use canola oil instead of butter when baking cakes. The resulting cake will be less dense, with a softer crumb. Canola oil is considered to be one of the healthier oils (not as healthy as olive oil, though!) as it contains a very low amount of saturated fats.
Sesame oil has been around for a long time (as in thousands of years). Because it’s quite expensive, it’s often sold in smaller quantities. Toasted sesame oil has a low smoking point, and shouldn’t be used for deep-frying. Because of its intense nutty and toasty flavor, it’s often said that toasted sesame oil should rather be used to finish off a stir-fry, make salad dressings, or as a drizzle over hummus. You can even use it instead of butter on your popcorn! If you are able to find regular light sesame oil, you can use this to stir-fry or sauté meat and vegetables, as it has a higher smoking point than the toasted variety. It’s best to store sesame oil in a cool, dark cupboard, or in the refrigerator.
Peanut oil has a mild flavor, with a slight nuttiness. It’s an excellent oil to use for deep-frying due to its high smoking point (about 450°F). It’s less likely to absorb food flavors the same way as other oils, so you can reuse the oil for other foods without the risk of ruining the taste. Because it’s a product of peanuts, it’s best to stay away from this oil if you (or someone in your household) are allergic to peanuts.
Coconut oil has gained popularity due to the interest in paleo and keto diets, as it has a very high fat content. There is still some controversy regarding its reported health benefits. It’s seen as a great high-fat alternative to animal fats, but it contains a high amount of unhealthy saturated fats. The high smoking point (between 350°F and 400°F) makes it suitable for sautéing or stir-frying. When used in baking, you can substitute butter with the same amount of coconut oil, and even use it to grease your baking tins. For a butter alternative, you can also use it to coat popcorn.
What are your favorite oils to cook with?