How to Choose the Best Cooking Oils
Cooking oils come in many more varieties than the average person might realize. Anyone with an eye for health and good cooking, the kind that fills one's meal management system up with great, clean food, should know that not all cooking oils are created equally.
How to choose and when to use among all the cooking oils available is an important part of meal prep, so we broke it down for you in our guide to the best cooking oils below.
Smoke Point: The temperature at which oil begins to smoke, which produces toxic fumes.
Linoleic Oil: A type of oil that is high in polyunsaturated fatty acid and has a shorter shelf life, including safflower, sunflower, soybean, and walnut.
High Oleic Oil: A type of oil that is high in monounsaturated fats, low in saturated fat, and has no trans fat. It has a longer shelf life than linoleic and includes olive oil, canola oil, and peanut oil. (Sunflower and other oils high in linoleic acids have been bred to produce high oleic versions as well.)
Refined: The oil has been processed to remove impurities, with semi-refined and unrefined referring to the extent of refinement.
This versatile oil has a neutral flavor. Most varieties are highly refined, which means they've traded in the benefits of antioxidants of olive oil for a lengthier shelf life. Canola oil has less saturated fat than many other frequently used cooking oils, which helps with lowering cholesterol levels.
Fat Content: Saturated: 7% | Monounsaturated: 62% | Polyunsaturated: 31%
Smoke Point: 399 Â°F | 204 Â°C
Use For: SautÃ©ing, roasting, frying, baking, salad dressings.
Coconut is one of the best cooking oils to offer a unique and bold flavor, but if it's a little overbearing, you can diminish it by cooking with other dominant flavors. Health benefits include supporting heart health, aiding in weight loss, and boosting metabolism. Coconut oil stays semi-solid at room temperature, and boasts a long shelf life, with the ability to last anywhere from months to years.
Fat Content: Saturated: 92% | Monounsaturated: 6% | Polyunsaturated: 1.6%.
Smoke Point: 351 Â°F | 177 Â°C
Use For: High heat cooking (the high saturated fat makes it good for this), baked goods, savory dishes like Thai.
When it comes to olive oil, you'll always want to reach for the extra virgin* kind. The high amount of antioxidant polyphenols boost extra virgin oil's claims of heart healthiness. (The non-virgin variety doesn't share these heart-healthy antioxidants.)
Fat Content: Monounsaturated: 78% | Polyunsaturated: 8% | Saturated: 14%
EV Smoke Point: 374 Â°F | 190 Â°C
Virgin: 419 Â°F | 215 Â°C
Refined: 437 Â°F | 225 Â°C
Use For: Drizzled on steamed vegetables, salad dressings, sautÃ©ing vegetables. Avoid high-heat cooking.
*Tip: Extra virgin is known as EV for short, so if you ever see EVOO in a recipe â€“ this is what they're talking about!
If you enjoy Chinese, South Asian, and Southeast Asian cuisine, you've run into peanut oil. The health benefits include cholesterol-lowering, cancer-inhibiting, heart-healthy plant fats known as phytosterols.
Fat Content: Saturated: 18% | Monounsaturated: 48% | Polyunsaturated: 34%
Smoke Point: 448 Â°F | 231 Â°C
Use For: SautÃ©ing, roasting, salad dressings, frying (thanks to the high smoke point).
The mild to moderate yet distinct flavor makes safflower a good all-purpose oil. Between the two types of safflower oil, the polyunsaturated kind is the healthy one you want to use for your cooking oils.
Fat Content: Saturated: 10% | Monounsaturated: 13% | Polyunsaturated: 77%
Smoke Point: 509 Â°F | 265 Â°C
Use For: Cooking, baked goods, salad dressings, margarine.
Sesame is another cooking oil that you're sure to be familiar with if you like Asian cuisine. Sesame oil has quite the nutty flavor and comes in both untoasted and toasted varieties. With high levels of omega-6 fatty acids (up to 40%) and the potential to be a valuable source of vitamin E, sesame oil has its share of health benefits too.
Fat Content: Saturated: 15% | Monounsaturated: 41% | Polyunsaturated: 44%
Unrefined Smoke Point: 351 Â°F | 177 Â°C
Semi-refined: 450 Â°F | 232 Â°C
Use For: Untoasted sesame oil for stir-frying; toasted sesame oil for salad dressings or drizzling onto dishes.
Soybean oil has a neutral flavor and retains its natural antioxidants even after extraction. It's also one of the best cooking oils for its omega-3 fatty acid content, which could reduce the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.
Fat Content: Saturated: 15% | Monounsaturated: 24% | Polyunsaturated: 61%
Smoke Point: 466 Â°F | 241 Â°C
Use For: Frying, stir-frying, light vegetable and meat sautÃ©s, salad dressings, baked goods.
With its mild to moderate taste, high smoke point, and affordability, sunflower oil is quite versatile and has become more widely used in commercial production in recent years. Sunflower oil has a profound fatty content in just the right combinations that are crucial for a balanced health profile.
Linoleic Fat Content: Saturated: 11% | Monounsaturated: 20% | Polyunsaturated: 69%
High Oleic Fat Content: Saturated: 9% | Monounsaturated: 82% | Polyunsaturated: 9%
Linoleic Smoke Point: 475 Â°F | 246 Â°C
High Oleic: 320Â°F | 160 Â°C
Use For: Linoleic for cooking, salad dressings, or to replace margarine or shortening in baked goods; high oleic just for cooking.
Walnut oil offers up another unmistakably nutty flavor, as well as omega-3s. Nut oils in general suffer from shorter shelf lives, so buy a small bottle of these types of cooking oils. It will keep in your refrigerator for up to 3 months.
Fat Content: Saturated: 9% | Monounsaturated: 24% | Polyunsaturated: 67%
Semi-refined Smoke Point: 399 Â°F | 204 Â°C
Use For: Salad dressings, baked goods, added to cold dishes, tossed with pasta.
Almond oil bears an unmistakably nutty flavor in the mild to moderate flavor level range. An excellent source of vitamin E, additional health benefits of almond oil include improved cardiovascular health.
Fat Content: Saturated: 8% | Monounsaturated: 66% | Polyunsaturated: 26%
Smoke Point: 430 Â°F | 221 Â°C
Use For: Baking, flavoring, sauces.
Avocado oil is better known for its cosmetic benefits, but the unusually high smoke point, pleasant aroma, and neutral to mild flavor more than earn this oil its place in the halls of best cooking oils. With vitamin E and heart-healthy phytosterols, avocado oil is a fresh way to jazz up your dishes.
Fat Content: Saturated: 12% | Monounsaturated: 74% | Polyunsaturated: 14%
Smoke Point: 520 Â°F | 271 Â°C
Use For: Searing meat and stir-frying (thanks to the high smoke point); sautÃ©ing, dipping oil, salad dressings.
Flaxseed is a great source of alpha-linolenic acid, a form of omega-3. It's also flavorful and heat sensitive, so get it cold and keep it refrigerated.
Fat Content: Saturated: 11% | Monounsaturated: 21% | Polyunsaturated: 68%
Use For: Salad dressings or as a nutritional supplement - many people use it to supplement their omega-3 fat intake. Do not use flaxseed oil for cooking.
Wheat Germ Oil
Wheat germ oil has antioxidant and regenerative properties, and is also known for its cosmetic purposes. This flavorful oil must be kept refrigerated and has the highest vitamin E amount of any food that hasn't been prepared or fortified.
Fat Content: Saturated: 17% | Monounsaturated: 65% | Polyunsaturated: 18%
Use For: Drizzled on heated dishes, salad dressings, dipping oils, marinades, sauces. Do not use wheat germ oil for cooking.
- When using many different kinds of cooking oils, it'll benefit you to buy smaller amounts at a time. You'll be more likely to use them all up that way.
- Be mindful of the storage environment of your cooking oils. Heat, light, and oxygen can cause damage (especially to polyunsaturated oils), so storage in cool, dark, dry places is best.
- If the oil takes on an unpleasant taste or smell, pitch it! It's gone rancid.
Whether your meal management system is powered by a gym backpack, gym tote, or sports duffle bag, we know how important nutrition is to you. The best cooking oils are an important of meal prep, and our guide seeks to help you both simplify your meal prep and expand your food knowledge. Check out more great food posts in our How to Meal Prep series and collection of Meal Prep Sundays recipes!