The right cooking oil can really complement a dish—whether you’re making salad, grilling or baking. Before you grab the closest oil in your pantry, there are some things to consider. What’s the smoke point of the oil, for instance? Here, we break down how to choose the best cooking oil for your next meal.
Olive oil has been a source of debate in recent years—some say that at high heat, it emits dangerous chemicals. But other experts say it’s perfectly safe at any temperature. Regardless of what’s true, olive oil does have a low smoke point, and cooking past that temperature will cause it to lose nutrients, not to mention potentially taste bad. Extra virgin olive oil’s smoke point is about 325 degrees F, so reserve this oil for sautéing and making salad dressing.
Avocado oil has the highest smoke point of any plant oil at 520 degrees F, according to Shape. While it’s great for grilling, it can also be a nice addition to salad dressing. Choose unrefined, extra-virgin, cold-pressed avocado oil for a closer taste to the actual fruit. And when you’re not cooking with avocado oil, feel free to use it on your dry skin, too!
Peanut oil is a good choice for deep frying because it has a smoke point of 450 degrees F. Try frying chicken with peanut oil, as it complements the taste of the dish. Keep in mind that this oil goes bad quickly, so use it within a few months once you’ve opened it, Bon Appetit suggests.
You’ve probably heard about the recent advisory from the American Heart Association, which warns that coconut oil can raise bad (LDL) cholesterol because of its high saturated fat content. But if you’re still loyal to coconut oil, you may be interested in using it as a butter alternative in baked goods. When this oil is in solid form, you can use it in place of butter because of its similar texture, suggests The Kitchn. (Where you store your coconut oil matters—it will turn to liquid at 76 degrees and solid below that temperature.) Aside from baking with coconut oil, you can also make flavorful dips and dressings like this cilantro-coconut one featured on the Whole Foods Market website.
This oil has a low smoke point, so it’s a good choice on salads and desserts. According to What’s Cooking America, walnut oil can have a bitter taste when it’s heated, so it’s best left uncooked altogether. But if you want a nutty flavor addition—and you want some heart-healthy benefits, too—try a drizzle of walnut oil on your next meal.
What’s your favorite cooking oil and why? Tell us below!