When it comes to the function and flavour, not all cooking oils are created equal. Some work well at high temperatures, while others should only be drizzled onto salads. Some are bold in flavour and should be used carefully, while others are mild and easy to pair with any recipe. Here are 8 oils you should learn how to use.
1. Olive Oil & Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
One of the most popular oils in modern home, olive oil has a high smoke point and is versatile enough to handle most tasks, like frying, sautéing, deep frying, and even oil poaching. It is the perfect default oil as it is neutral in taste.
For flavour, go with extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO). Unlike its cousin, this oil is made by cold pressing at low temperatures, which helps to conserve its robust flavour, antioxidant contents, and monounsaturated fats. Best used as salad dressings, dips, or drizzled over dishes, avoid exposing EVOO to high heats as it will ruin the flavour profile.
2. Coconut Oil
A new favourite among health-conscious home cooks, coconut oil is best for sautéing, low-heat roasting, and baking. Being a solid at room temperature, coconut oil can’t be used for salad dressings or as a finishing drizzle, but is a great non-dairy butter substitute. It also has quite a distinct taste, which may not be for every recipe or every taste bud.
3. Peanut Oil
Commonly used in Asian dishes, peanut oil has a bold nutty flavour that can help to enhance a dish, but also make it unsuitable for other recipes. It has a very high smoke point, making it ideal for frying and deep-frying. Take note that peanut oil tends to go rancid quicker than other oils, so try to buy smaller batches and be sure to store it in a cool, dark place to extend its shelf life.
4. Toasted Nut & Seed Oils
Whether it’s walnut, pistachio, sesame, pumpkin seed, or other nuts and seeds, these oils tend to have a low smoke point and big flavours. They're generally used as a rich and luxurious flavour enhancer to soups and salads. Just a few drops will do the trick – you don’t want to pour in more than needed as they can be quite costly.
5. Vegetable Oil
With a low price tag, vegetable oils, such as corn oil and canola oil, are one of the most commonly used staples in commercial kitchens, especially for deep-frying. They have high smoke points and virtually no distinct taste or smell, which are great for a wide range of dishes, but are also not the healthiest option.
6. Grapeseed Oil
Once a discarded byproduct of winemaking, grapeseed oil has come into its own of late with research showing that it’s a great source of essential fatty acids, Vitamin E and Vitamin C. Favoured by chefs for its high smoke point, clean taste, and ability to hold up at lower temperatures without separating, grapeseed oil is often used to make sauces and emulsified recipes, such as mayonnaise, as well as low-temperature sautéing.
7. Avocado Oil
If you can’t get enough of the ‘avo on toast’ trend, you can now enjoy meals with avocado oil as well. With one of the highest smoke points of any oil at 266°C, it is naturally an ideal choice for very high-temperature cooking, like frying, grilling and searing. Like the fruit, it has a buttery flavour and texture and a high content of healthful monounsaturated fats.
8. Flaxseed Oil
While flaxseed boasts a long list of benefits, the taste can be quite an acquired one. With a unique nutty flavour, flaxseed oil should be used sparingly in dressings or as a finisher – go too heavy and it will make your dish taste funky. But with studies claiming that it will help with digestive health, reduce high cholesterol, and defend against heart diseases, it might be worth getting used to the taste.