Cooking Oils 101

Stumped by which oil to use when frying, sautéing, baking, and more?  Check out our guide to common cooking oils.

  • <p>Cooking Oils 101</p>
    Photo: Brit Huckabay; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine

    Cooking Oils 101

    When used in moderation, cooking oils are a wonderful addition to your kitchen's pantry.  Each one has its own benefits and uses, though the most important factor to pay attention to is the oil's smoke point, which indicates the highest temperature the oil can be heated to safely.

  • Cooking Oils 101: Peanut Oil
    Photo: Brit Huckabay; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine

    Peanut Oil

    Peanut oil has a high smoke point, and it's a favorite oil for stir-frying and deep-frying.

  • Cooking Oils 101: Sesame Oil
    Photo: Brit Huckabay; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine

    Sesame Oil

    There are two kinds of sesame oil: light and dark.  Light sesame oil has a light, nutty flavor and is good for sautéing, salad dressings, and more.  Dark sesame oil, on the other hand, has a more intense flavor.  Only a little bit is needed to accent other flavors, particularly in Asian-inspired dishes.

  • Cooking Oils 101: Coconut Oil
    Photo: Brit Huckabay; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine

    Coconut Oil

    One of the more eclectic oils, coconut oil is good for deep-frying due to its light coconut flavor.  It's solid at room temperature, but liquid when heated just slightly.  Want to experiment with coconut oil in your own kitchen?  Try substituting it for other oils in baked goods or use to add tropical flair to sides and entrées. Finally, coconut oil is also an excellent moisturizer for skin and hair!

  • <p>Vegetable Oil</p>
    Photo: Brit Huckabay; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine

    Vegetable Oil

    Vegetable oil, a mixture of corn, safflower, and canola oils, is a great all-purpose oil with a neutral flavor.  It has a high smoke point, so it's good for frying.  Vegetable oil is perfect for baking too, and keeps muffins, cakes, and more from drying out.

  • <p>Corn Oil</p>
    Photo: Brit Huckabay; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine

    Corn Oil

    Corn oil has a mild flavor and is another great all-purpose oil for general cooking and deep-frying.  The mild flavor also makes it an especially good choice for baking.

  • <p>Canola Oil</p>
    Photo: Brit Huckabay; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine

    Canola Oil

    When you'd like to cook with an unsaturated oil but don't want the added flavor of olive oil, turn to canola oil.  It has a bland flavor and a fairly high smoke point, making it good for sautéing, frying, baking, and salad dressings.  For an easy weeknight side, try drizzling cut-up seasonal vegetables with canola oil and roasting in the oven.

  • <p>Olive Oil</p>
    Photo: Brit Huckabay; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine

    Olive Oil

    Much ado has been made about the health benefits of flavorful olive oil.  Like fine wines, the flavor of quality olive oils depends on the particular olives used and the unique characteristics of their growing region.  Extra-virgin olive oil is pressed from whole olives within a day after the harvest and is the highest quality olive oil.  Heating olive oil causes it to lose a lot of flavor, so avoid using more expensive extra-virgin olive oil for cooking.  Extra-virgin olive oil is better for tossing with roasted vegetables, pasta, et cetera.  No matter the variety, be sure to store olive oil in a cool cabinet away from heat and use within 6 months.

  • <p>Sunflower Oil</p>
    Photo: Brit Huckabay; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine

    Sunflower Oil

    Sunflower oil is a flavorless oil high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat.  It has a fairly low smoke point, so try it whenever your recipe calls for a quick sauté or homemade dressing.  It's also great for baking fries in the oven -- a healthy alternative to traditional deep-fried french fries.

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