Which Cooking Oil Should I Use?

Author: ANCP   Date Posted:2 October 2014 

Have you ever looked at the huge range of oils available in the supermarket and wondered, which cooking oil should I use? Well, just as you pick seasonings based on the foods you are cooking, you should do the same with your oils.

Each oil has its own smoke point, or the temperature at which it begins to break down. As the temperature rises, the glycerol breaks down and produces a colourless liquid called acrolein. Acrolein has a pungent smell that can make your eyes itch and your food taste bad. To aid in staying below an oil’s smoke point and decreasing the risk of ruining your meal, you should choose the right type of oil based on the food you're cooking and how you plan to cook it.

Are you planning on baking a batch of Anzac biscuits? If so, you should use flaxseed oil, walnut oil, olive oil, or butter, which are perfect for low temperature cooking and baking.

Animal fats, dairy products, and unrefined oils have the lowest smoke points. Some of them also make great flavour-full dressings for salads.

For medium-heat cooking and frying you should try coconut oil, canola oil, and extra virgin olive oil. These oils are perfect for pan frying fish, stir fries or oven baking meat pies.

Coconut oil smokes at 230°, canola oil at 220-230° and olive oil at 190°. Test out different coconut oils to see which one you prefer. Some have a more coconutty flavour that they impart in the food you are cooking, where as others are very mild.

Are you in the mood for some salt and pepper calamari? Well, grab a skillet and fill it with seasame oil, peanut oil, avocado oil, or ghee. Either one will do for the deep frying you’re preparing for. They’re also perfect for high heat grilling, so hold on to what’s left and use it to cook your snags. Some of these oils have good flavour, while others only have their smoke points going for them. Roasted sesame oil smokes between 170° and 191°, peanut oil between 149 and 163° and avocado oil at 190°.

Of course, you don’t need to rush out and fill your cupboards with dozens of different oils. You may want to keep one or two oils handy so you have the right product for whatever type of cooking you are doing. For example, we like to have on hand some butter, olive oil, coconut oil and peanut oil which covers most bases.