What type of oil should I use for recipes?

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Photo: Brit Huckabay; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine

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If you have a cooking question, our expert, Marge Perry, can answer it. Marge teaches home cooks in her classes at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. She is an award-winning food writer, longtime contributor for Cooking Light and a number of other leading food magazines, author of the blog A Sweet and Savory Life, columnist for Newsday, and has contributed to over 20 cookbooks.

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Flavor, smoke point and nutrition are the three factors that influence which oil I use when cooking. The two oils I turn to first are olive and canola, because both are rich in monounsaturated fats. Regular olive oil has a mild flavor that pairs well with most Mediterranean foods, is highest in monounsaturated fats and has a smokepoint (the temperature at which the oil will break down) of 425-435F.

Canola has very little flavor, is lowest of any oil in saturated fat and has a high 435-445F smoke point. A good third choice is soybean oil—usually labeled "vegetable oil"—which accounts for three-fourths of all oil consumed in the US. It has no flavor and a smokepoint of 440-450F, a good balance of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat and is gentler on the wallet than olive and canola oils.

For more information on different types of cooking oils, see Cooking Oils 101.

Marge Perry
May, 2011
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  1. Enter at least one ingredient