20 cooking oils: Know how to pick healthy oils

20 cooking oils: Know how to pick healthy oils

So many oils out there, so which one to choose for cooking oils? Can you still make it healthy cooking oils? Know how to pick healthy oils.

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Cooking oils: Know how to pick healthy oils

Cooking oils: Know how to pick healthy oils-bad oils-unhealthy oils-good fats-bad fats-cooking tips-dressing-deep frying-sauteing-olive oil-coconut oil

So many cooking oils – do you know which one to choose and how to pick healthy oils? This is a kind of tricky question. Healthy oils/fats aren’t always the ones that are good for flavoring on certain dishes and deep-flying.

How to choose the cooking oils depends on what you cook – assess the recipe needs and the smoke point of the oil. Then pick the healthier oil for it.

When you’re cooking at high heat, you want to use oils that are stable and don’t oxidize or go rancid easily. Generally, oils with high smoke points are great for cooking oils. When oils undergo oxidation, they react with oxygen to form free radicals and harmful compounds.

Saturated fats and monounsaturated fats are pretty resistant for heating, but oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats should be avoided for cooking. Remember, even the “healthy” oils are still fats. Use it in moderation.

You’ll learn which oils are healthy and not healthy, features/usage of each oil as cooking oils, everything about cooking oils so that you know how to pick healthy oils.


Smoke point

The smoke point is the point at which an oil begins to smoke and become ineffective. At the point, these oils oxidize and form free radicals, which is unhealthy for you. Especially for deep frying, you must use the oils with high smoke points.

A high smoke point: typically one above 375°F (temperature for deep fly).

Oils with high smoke points are typically those that are more refined because their heat-sensitive impurities are often removed through chemical processing, bleaching, filtering, or high-temperature heating.


Oils you want by cooking method


FRYING

  • Choose an oil with a neutral flavor and a high smoke point.
  • Price to consider. Deep frying requires a large amount of oil and some oils simply aren’t practical for deep fry.
  • The best frying temperature is between 170°C/340°F and 190°C/375°F. Lower cooking temperatures will cause the food to soak up oil, and higher temperatures will burn the food before it is cooked through. Set the temperature at 180°C/355°F for best results.
  • Don’t use fats that solidify (lard, tallow, coconut oil etc.) when cool in deep fryers with submersible elements.
  • Canola oil, pure olive oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil, safflower oil, and peanut oil.


Deep fryer for Cooking solidifying fats

The one drawback of using solidifying oils (lard, tallow, and coconut oil) is that they set solid after cooling. Because of it, you can’t use them in deep fryers with a submersible element like Tefal.

So use a deep fryer with the element sealed or underneath the unit (so no fat/oil comes in contact with the element).


Oils that you shouldn’t use for deep frying

These oils oxidize and form free radicals at high temperatures so are best served at much cooler temperatures (cold for flaxseed).

  • Extra virgin Olive oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil


SAUTEING & SEARING

  • Choose a more flavorful oil with a lower smoke point.
  • Canola oil, extra-virgin olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil.


DRESSING

  • Choose the flavorful oils.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil.


BAKING

  • Choose a neutral oil.
  • Canola oil, coconut oil, and vegetable oil.

Healthy oils

Use saturated oils and healthy fats from foods high in Omega-3s – fish, nuts, olives etc. These fats can boost fat burning and provide your body and brain with quick energy. They also raise the good HDL cholesterol in your blood reducing the risk of heart disease.


Avocado oil

  • Avocado oil has a high smoke point
  • It has a neutral flavor without being chemically processed like canola and vegetable oil.
  • It’s a bit more expensive than those more processed oils, but you can avoid those unhealthy refined oils.
  • It’s high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats
  • Unlike coconut oil, it doesn’t have quite as much saturated fat (only 1.6 grams per tablespoon).
  • No need to refrigerate it when opened, though you should store it in a cool, dark place.

Best for: Frying, sautéing, roasting, searing, dressings
Not for: Budget cooking
Smoke point: 520°F


Animal fats: Bacon fat, tarrow, lard

The fatty acid content of animals tends to vary depending on what the animals eat. Animal fats that are naturally raised are excellent options for cooking oils.

  • Grains: more polyunsaturated fats.
  • Pastured raised or grass-fed: more saturated and monounsaturated fats.


Bacon fat

Bacon is a fatty cut of meat taken from the pork belly and when you cook it slowly at a low temperature, you’ll get that tasty rendered fat. You can save it and use it for cooking.

  • It is crystal-clear and when it cools, it takes on a creamy white color.
  • Bacon fat is loaded with a smoky flavor


Storing tips

  • Make sure not to pour the hot fat into any vessel that might crack or melt. 
  • Bacon fat has a fairly long shelf-life, but it won’t last forever. Exposure to heat, light, and oxygen can cause it to turn rancid, and adding new fat to rancid fat (or nearly rancid fat) will just ruin all of it.
  • Use a fresh container to store each batch of bacon fat. Don’t mix with old one.
  • You can store it in the freezer for up to a month as long as it’s in an airtight container like a glass jar.

Best for: Sauteing, roast, frying
Not for: Dressing
Smoke point: 325°F


Duck fat

  • It has great flavors adding for fried chicken and French fries and more.
  • Duck fat when used alone or in combination with other high smoke point oils, such as safflower or peanut oil, makes for deep-frying. 

Best for: Frying, sauteing, roasting, baking, dressing
Smoke point: 375°F


Goose fat

  • When the goose is roasted, it gives off a quantity of fat that can be strained and stored, once cool, in the refrigerator. 
  • Goose fat has a rich, silky texture and a very savoury flavour.
  • It’s high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and a good source of energy; 1 gram of fat provides 9 Kcals. It’s better than other animal fats

Best for: Sauteing, roasting, dipping, dressing
Not for: Frying
Smoke point: 325°F


Lard

Lard is rendered pig fat. After tallow, lard the next best oil for deep frying and shallow frying. 

  • Lard is neutral flavored.
  • Due to its higher smoke point that it gets a slightly crispier result from Tallow and that it seals the food quicker.
  • Lard consists of 39% Saturated fat, 45% monounsaturated fat and 11% polyunsaturated fat. 
  • Lard contains oleic acid, the same found in olive oil. Oleic Acid is shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
  • Lard is a little less expensive than Tallow.
  • Get non-hydrogenated lard if you can afford it because it’s healthier for you. Use hydrogenated lard over vegetable and seed oils. Hydrogenated lard most often contains less than 4 g of trans fat per 100g, when used for deep frying you consume hardly any of that.

Best for: Frying, sauteing
Not for: Dressing
Smoke point: 374°F


Tallow

Tallow is rendered animal fat and old school cooking fat that McDonald’s used to use beef tallow for French fries, which made them tasty. But it was largely replaced with refined vegetable and seed oils (trans fats – really bad fat) due to a misinformed health scare over saturated fats in the 1960’s.

  • It has an extremely high smoke point of 420ºF
  • It is typically white and waxy, with a similar consistency to coconut oil. It’s solid at room temperature and is shelf-stable in an air-tight container.
  • Tallow is high in CLA (omega-3’s) which has been proven to reduce incidences of heart disease and protects against cancer.
  • Tallow is high in antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.
  • Buy from a pasture-raised operation without antibiotics and steroids because tallow from properly raised cattle tastes better and contains more vitamins. When looking at the tallow, the texture and color should be consistent. Color can range from pure white to yellow, depending on the age and diet of the cattle.

Best for: Frying, sauteing, searing
Not for: Dressing
Smoke point: 420°F


Butter

  • Butter is a dairy product made from the fat and protein components of milk or cream.
  • It is a semi-solid emulsion at room temperature, consisting of approximately 80% butterfat. 
  • Regular butter does contain small amounts of sugars and proteins, which tends to get burned during high heat cooking like frying. To avoid that, you can use ghee instead.
  • Real butter is fairly nutritious: Vitamins A, E and K2. It is also rich in the fatty acids Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and Butyrate.
  • Choose butter from grass-fed cows because it contains more Vitamin K2, CLA, and other nutrients, compared to butter from grain-fed cows.

Best for: Sauteing, baking
Not for: Frying
Smoke point: 302°F (low)


Coconut oil

  • Coconut oil is good only for baking. Coconut oil a great vegan butter alternative. It is good for moderate-heat roasting. But overall, you’re better off using other oils.
  • It’s about as healthy as butter. much like butter, its high content of saturated fat (12 g per 1 Tablespoon) makes it solid at room temperature – good for non-dairy baked goods. It melts and gives off a tropical scent when heated. Don’t exceed its smoke point (350°F).
  • It raises both your “good” and “bad” cholesterol giving an edge over butter or lard unlike most other saturated fats.
  • Choose virgin coconut oil. It’s organic, tastes good with health benefits.

Best for: Baking, low heat sauteing
Not for: Frying, dressing
Smoke point: 450°F (Refined, dry), 350°F (Unrefined, dry expeller pressed, virgin)


Flaxseed oil

  • Not for cooking (with heat) because it’s incredibly sensitive to heat and oxidizes quickly
  • Flaxseed oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, so use it more often if you don’t eat a lot of omega-3 rich fish.
  • Buy small bottles so you can use it up quickly, and store it in a cool dark place or fridge.

Best for: Drizzling and salad dressings
Not for: Cooking
Smoke point: 225°F


Ghee

  • Ghee is clarified butter – butter that has been simmered and strained to remove all water. The clarifying process removes casein and lactose, making it suitable for the dairy-sensitive.
  • Unlike butter (350°F), it has a higher smoke point. Great for high heat cooking.
  • It has a deep nutty flavor.
  • It is shelf-stable due to no water content, it can be stored without any refrigeration for a long while. Just keep it away from stoves, food, and anything else that can introduce bacteria. 
  • It’s high in Omega-3s and butyric acid, good for anti-inflammatory and digestive systems.

Best for: Grilling, sautéeing, searing, roasting
Smoke point: 480°F


Nuts oil


Almond oil

  • Almond oil is a great oil to use when baking or for dressings & vinaigrettes.
  • Nearly half of a dried almond’s weight is oil.
  • It may promote heart health, stabilize blood sugar levels, prevent free radical damage, and help you maintain a healthy weight. It also great for skin and hair.
  • Refined almond oil is best for cooking due to its high smoke point. Unrefined almond oil for finishing oil. It’s not good with high heat.

Best for: Salad dressings, baking
Smoke point: 420°F


Hazelnut oil

  • Hazelnut oil has a similar composition to EVO – high in Omega 3, 6, and 9.
  • This is a flavorful oil to use when baking or using to drizzle over food. It is slightly sweet and nutty.

Best for: Salad dressings, drizzling, baking, sauteing, frying
Smoke point: 430°F


Macadamia oil

  • Macadamia oil has a clear light yellow color
  • It is rich in antioxidants, healthy fatty acids, vitamin E, and potassium. It’s good for skin and hair, too.

Best for: Salad dressings, drizzling, baking, roasting, frying
Smoke point: 390°F


Pistachio oil

  • Pistachio oil has a low smoke point, so it’s a finishing oil for dressing
  • It has a bright green color, with a pistachio taste

Best for: Salad dressings, drizzling, baking
Not for: Frying
Smoke point: 225°F


Walnut Oil

  • Most walnut oil is sold unrefined or semi-refined, it has more of the naturally occurring nutrients and phytochemicals. However, this makes it more challenging for cooking with heat.
  • The only nut with an excellent source of plant omega-3s.
  • It is expensive and delicate, so store in the refrigerator or freezer to preserve the flavor and phytochemicals.

Best for: Salad dressings and drizzling
Not for: sautee, frying
Smoke point: 320°F


Olive oils

There are various olive oils out there – from cheap to super expensive. It tastes way better if you get those quality ones.


Extra virgin oil (EVO/EVOO)

  • Extra virgin oil is high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats
  • High-quality EVO is quite tasty
  • It has a relatively low smoke point (325 to 375°F) compared to other grades of olive oil. Not for frying or roasting at temperatures above that smoke point.
  • Adding heat ruins both its flavor and nutrition, so use your fancy bottle for drizzling and finishing dishes.

Best for: Sautéing, drizzling, baking, dressings
Not for: Frying or roasting above 375°F
Smoke point: 320-405°F


Pure (“Light” or “Regular”) olive oil

  • Pure olive oil has a smoke point of 465 degrees F, which is good for frying unlike EVO.
  • It’s lighter in taste and color, not calories, than EVO since it’s chemically processed.
  • It doesn’t have as many heart-healthy fats as extra-virgin oil.

Best for: Frying, making your own infused oils
Not for: Salad dressings
Smoke point: 390-470°F (Refined, dry)


Palm oil (Red)

  • Palm oil is derived from the fruit of oil palms.
  • Red Palm Oil (the unrefined variety) is best. It is also rich in antioxidants, Vitamins E, Coenzyme Q10 and other nutrients.
  • It consists mostly of saturated and monounsaturated fats, with small amounts of polyunsaturates.
  • It has a rich dark red color in its unprocessed natural state. 
  • Palm oil is used in cooking, especially in West African cuisines and curries. It is also found in certain foods, products and fuels.
  • The sustainability of harvesting palm oil creates less environment available for endangered orangutans. It’s healthy, but let’s just choose other options.

Best for: Frying
Smoke point: 455°F (Defractionated)


Unhealthy oils

Avoid oils made from seeds, grains, and legumes. They are polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) that are high in Omega-6 fatty acids: cheap, usually neutral in flavors, having high smoking points for cooking (which is useful). However, they are highly processed – they are often soaked with “hexane”, an ingredient used in gasoline and roofing. Remove all the hydrogenated oils from your diet.

Avoid PUFA’s since they can cause numerous health issues – heart issues, obesity, and systemic inflammation. Do you want to put that in your body?

  • Peanut oil
  • VEGETABLE OIL

Peanut oil

  • Peanut oil is great for high heat cooking
  • There are a few different types of peanut oils offering a range of flavors.
  • It has a great source of vitamin E containing 11% of the recommended daily intake
  • It has one of the highest monounsaturated fat contents among cooking oils. Almost half of the peanut oil is comprised of monounsaturated fats.
  • Like vegetable and canola oil, it is also chemically processed and low in saturated fat.
  • It can go rancid quickly, so store it in a cool and dry place, and use it within a few months. It’s best to buy in small batches unless you’re doing a lot of deep-frying.

Best for: Stir fry, sautéing, frying
Not for: Something you don’t want that peanut flavor
Smoke point: 450°F (Refined), 320°F (unrefined)


Vegetable oils

Public health organizations usually recommend us to consume these polyunsaturated oils, but is vegetable oil healthy?

“Vegetable oil” is typically a blend of many different refined oils. Most vegetable oils on the market are a blend of canola, corn, soybean, safflower, palm and sunflower oils. They could be different names. You should AVOID all as cooking oils.


Common forms of vegetable oils

  • Canola Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Cottonseed Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Rapeseed Oil
  • Soybean Oil
  • Safflower Oil
  • “Vegetable” oil
  • Margarine
  • Shortening
  • Fake butter or spreads

Most processed foods and deep-fried foods use vegetable oils because they are cheap, usually neutral in flavors, and having high smoking points for cooking. Saturated fats are the best option for cooking due to the heat stability.

Many studies show that saturated fatty acids have no relation to heart disease risk despite the common notion “saturated fat is unhealthy”.

So what’s the problem to use vegetable oils like canola and sunflower oil (they claim as “low in saturated fat”)?



Vegetable oils are unhealthy


Vegetable oils are heavily processed

Vegetable oils sound healthier, but there is nothing natural about corn oil, canola oil, or the other industrial seed oils. They can only be created in the lab and heavily processed since you can’t squeeze a cob of corn and get fat from it. Getting oil out of a seed or grain requires the use of high-heat presses and the chemical hexane for extraction.


Vegetable oils contain full of chemicals

Vegetable oils, specifically vegetable oil products such as margarine, often contain added preservatives, emulsifiers, colors, flavors, and sodium.


Vegetable oils are unnatural

Vegetable oils are unnatural, so it will be a burden for your immune system to get rid of them out of your body system creating health problems.


Vegetable oils causes inflammation

The majority of vegetable oils are high in polyunsaturated fat – mainly omega-6. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are the least heat-stable of all fats, which has a higher chance of oxidizing.

Regular consumption of vegetable oil imbalances our omega 3-6 ratio and promotes inflammation. Which makes vegetable oils to avoid as cooking oils.


Why is oxidation bad?

Oxidation can turn good oil into unhealthy. When heat oxidizes cooking oils, oxidized fat causes inflammation in the body associated with almost every chronic disease – cancer, diabetes, heart diseases.


Vegetable oils

  • It has a high smoke point and a neutral flavor.
  • It’s also chemically processed and refined depleting the natural mineral content.

Best for: Frying, roasting, and baking
Not for: Sautéing and salad dressings
Smoke point: 400-450°F


Canola oil

  • It is great for frying with a high smoke point and a neutral flavor (not so great for sauteing).
  • It is chemically processed (You could find cold press).
  • It’s low in saturated fats and relatively high in monounsaturated fat. Of all vegetable oils, canola oil tends to have the least amount of saturated fats.
  • It’s cheap.
  • It is made from rapeseed plant.
  • It’ll go rancid in about a year (you can smell it). Store them in a cool, dark place, away from the stovetop and oven.

Best for: Frying, roasting, and baking
Not for: Sautéing and salad dressings
Smoke point: 428–446°F


Corn oil

  • It has a high smoke point.
  • It has a neutral flavor.
  • It’s cheap – used frequently in commercial kitchens.

Best for: Frying
Not for: Salad dressings
Smoke point: 446-460°F


Grapeseed Oil

  • It has light green in color
  • It has a high smoke point.
  • It has high in omega 6 and 9.
  • It has a clean taste. It’s often used in vinaigrettes because it allows other ingredients (like specialty oils or herbs) to stand out.
  • It is less expensive than EVOO

Best for: Frying, sauteeing, baking
Not for: Salad dressings (by itself)
Smoke point: 421°F


Hemp Seed Oil

  • Hemp seed oil has a very nutty, rich flavor and dark green color.
  • It’s too sensitive for heat, so use it as a finishing oil for soups or grain bowls. If using it in a vinaigrette, cut with a less-intense oil.
  • Store it in the fridge. 

Best for: Garmish
Not for: Sautee, frying
Smoke point: 332°F


Safflower oil

  • It has a neutral flavor and high smoke point.
  • It is sold both chemically processed and cold-pressed like olive oil.
  • It is low in saturated fats and high in omega-9 fatty acids.

Best for: Frying and sautéing
Not for: Salad dressings
Smoke point: 510°F (Refined), 225°F(Unrefined)


Sunflower oil

  • It has a hight smoke point.
  • Because it is pressed from seeds, it does turn rancid quicker than other oils, so store it in a cool place and use within a year, max.
  • Classic sunflower oil (or linoleic sunflower oil) has higher levels of polyunsaturated fats which you shouldn’t eat in excess. They’re also often solvent expelled.

Best for: Frying, sautéing
Not for: Dressing
Smoke point: 441°F


Vegetable shortening

  • Vegetable shortening is made by hydrogenating vegetable oil, such as soybean or cottonseed oil.
  • It has no flavor or odor.
  • It is solid at room temperature like butter
  • As a solid fat, vegetable shortening is often used in place of butter or lard in baking or for greasing pans.
  • It’s often used for baking like pie crusts.

Best for: Baking
Smoke point: 360°F


Other cooking oils


Sesame oil

  • Sesame oil is a highly flavorful oil, so you don’t need to use it a lot.
  • It’s a great alternative to peanut oil if you have a peanut allergy.
  • And like extra-virgin olive oil, it’s cold-pressed rather than chemically processed. So while it may not have the highest smoke point, it’s a good unrefined option.
  • Store it in a cool place.

Best for: Dipping, drizzling, dressing
Not for: Frying
Smoke point: 350-410°F


Pine Seed Oil

  • Pine seed oil has a distinctive pine seed flavor and quite expensive.
  • It is produced on a small scale primarily in France.

Best for: Dressing, drizzling
Smoke point: 410°F


Pumpkin Seed Oil

  • Pumpkin seed oil has a dark brown color
  • It has a pleasant toasted pumpkin seed flavor.
  • It is popular in Austria, where most of it is produced.

Best for: Dressing, drizzling
Smoke point: 320°F


How cooking oils Are Made

Oils are extracted from their sources basically using 2 types of processes: naturally (non-refined oils) or chemically (refined oils).


Natural process

It mechanically presses the oil out of its source. Some oils, usually nut oils, are expeller pressed. It requires a lot of force and the friction can cause the oil to reach high temperatures, which is bad for oils.

Heat-sensitive oils are usually cold pressed to keep the oil temperatures below 120°F.


Chemical process

Many cooking oils are made through a chemical process (“refining”) because not all cooking oils can be efficiently produced using natural processes.

It grinds the oil source and then uses chemicals to separate the oil from the seed’s pulp. When oils are refined, they also go through a cleaning process usually as bleaching and deodorizing the oil. That’s why you should avoid those refined cooking oils for your health.



BENEFITS

1. It increases the shelf life of oil

Refined oils can be stored at room temperature and can last a long time. That’s why they’re often cheap and used for mass-market cooking.

2. It increases the oil versatility

Refining oils usually result in a milder taste with a higher smoke point, which makes them more suitable for various cooking needs.


DISADVANTAGES

  1. It strips off their natural nutrients
  2. It introduces chemicals (used during refining) into the oils

How to take care of cooking oils

Avoid heat, oxygen, and light for cooking oils.

  • Buy a small portion so that you can use them up before they get oxidation and damaged.
  • Keep cooking oils in a cool, dry, dark place. Keep them away from stoves and heat source.
  • Close the lid of cooking oil on after usage.
  • Store all the nut oils in the fridge. 

Flavoring oils

Oils with a distinct taste should be chosen to enhance particular dishes. They are too overpowering for general-purpose cooking. Such oils, especially if they are not blended, tend to be costly. So they are best used where only a small amount is needed.


Burning Point

If the oil is heated for too long or too high in temperature, it may catch fire. Don’t be panic. Never use water to put off burning oil! Put a lid, a flameproof fire blanket, or a sheet of aluminum foil over it.

Conclusion: Now you're more clear about oils and know which one is good for each cooking method. Try to pick healthier oil whenever you use it for cooking oil. Healthy fats are necesary for your body and you have every power to pick the healthy oils/fats for your healthy living. 


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