What Oils Do I Use for Cooking?

Updated: Dec 25, 2020

Walking into a grocery store can at times be a little bit overwhelming. There is so much to choose from, especially when it comes to oils. It is a great convenience to have so much available, but can be overwhelming without enough information to make a decision. Why are there so many to choose from? What happened to good old fashioned EVOO?


Extra Virgin Olive Oil is great to use in salads and low heat cooking, but once it is heated past it's smoke point, it begins to oxidize, loses it's nutritional value, changes flavor, and can make it more difficult for your body to process and digest.


A smoke point is the temperature at which an oil begins to smoke and break down. Each oil has a different smoke point. Familiarizing yourself with oils and their smoke points can help inform your decision on which oils to use for which recipes.


Refined oils tend to have higher smoke points and are generally safer to cook with. These oils are extracted using heat which diminishes their nutrient profile, but extends shelf life and smoke point. Unrefined, virgin, and cold pressed oils tend to have lower smoke points and are safer to use with salad dressings and low heat/no heat cooking. These oils are extracted without heavy processing, have greater flavors, vitamins, and minerals, but may not be safe to cook with.

For example: Refined avocado oil has a smoke point of 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and cold pressed avocado oil has a smoke point of 250.





The Breakdown:

Below are listed various oils and their smoke points. You can use this as a quick reference guide when baking or cooking. The objective is to be aware of what temperature you are cooking at, and use an oil that's smoke point is below that temperature.


Refined Avocado Oil.................500

Clarified Butter/Ghee...............450

Refined Coconut Oil.................450

Macadamia Nut Oil..................410

Extra Virgin Olive Oil................375

Butter........................................350

Cold Pressed Coconut Oil.......350

Cold Pressed Avocado Oil......250


Just because an oil is heated below it's smoke point does not mean it's safe. The types of fats in each oil matters, too. For instance, peanut oil has a high smoke point, but it is filled with Monounsaturated Fats which are unstable when heated. Monounsaturated fats can be found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil and are not inherently bad. They do not, however, tolerate high heat. When this type of fat is heated, it goes rancid and causes inflammation in the body. Examples of oils with unstable fats are:


Canola Oil

Palm Oil

Peanut Oil and Butter

Safflower Oil

Sunflower Oil

Sesame Oil

Corn Oil

Soybean Oil


So...

Ideally I want to get the most flavor and the most nutrients without the fat breaking down from heat. The following is just a reference of what I do - play around and find what is right for you!


No Heat:

When I am making salad dressings I use EVOO or cold pressed avocado oil. I do NOT use refined avocado oil because it has less of a flavor and nutrient profile. I also do not use coconut oil because it turns solid in the fridge.


Low Heat (350 or below):

When I am baking with low heat I use cold pressed coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, or ghee.


High Heat (350 or above)

If I take anything to a frying pan I use ghee or avocado oil. I don't feel the need to take the exact temperature of what I cook on the frying pan, so to be safe, I go with higher smoke point oils.



Hope this helps clarify some of the differences between oils! Good luck and happy cooking!

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