So you’re doing your groceries and realize, wait a minute, do I really need all these kinds of oil? Which one should I buy? For those not in the know, each one has its own flavor and smoke point that’s best suited to different dishes.
Here’s a breakdown of six of the most commonly used cooking oils:
Extra virgin olive oil
EVOO is popular as a healthy option for oil because it’s rich in antioxidants. However, it has a low smoke point at around 375ºF/191ºC. Extra virgin olive oil is thus better for uncooked or colder dishes. EVOO is also best for dips and vinaigrettes.
Light olive oil
Having a more neutral flavor, “light” olive oil has a lot of the same benefits of EVOO, but has a higher smoke point at 470ºF/243ºC. This makes it good for sautéing, roasting, and grilling. This can also be used for baking.
This cake recipe by Mano Gonzales shows how to make use of olive oil’s flavor.
Another oil that’s widely considered as healthy, coconut oil actually has two types that you can use. For something with a lighter coconut taste, go for refined coconut oil, which can be used for sautéing or roasting. Its smoke point is at 470ºF/243ºC, much like light olive oil.
There’s also virgin coconut oil, which has a stronger coconut flavor, but can only be used for cooking in temperatures up to 350ºF/177ºC.
If you find yourself cooking more Asian dishes, sesame oil would be the most useful addition to your pantry. It works well for stir-frying and sautéing, with a mid-range smoke point at 350-400ºF/177 to 204ºC. It can also serve as a condiment, dressing, or dip (think samgyupsal).
This seems to be one of the more popular, all-around types, but most suited for sautéing, frying, or any high-heat cooking as it can stand up to 450ºF/232ºC.
These might be the most popular and most widely available types of oil in the market. Canola, vegetable, and corn oil are best suited for frying and deep-frying, especially because they have a neutral taste. However, it’s no longer the top choice for cooking oil as it’s considered high in fat but low in nutrients. These oils have a smoke point of 400-450ºF/204-232ºC.
Now whichever type of oil you use, remember: Don’t throw them down the drain! Dispose of them through proper facilities.