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Are You Using the Right Cooking Oils?

Are You Using the Right Cooking Oils?

Rebecca Lewis

The Smoke Point of Cooking Oils

When it comes to choosing an oil, it’s important to know an oil’s smoke point, which is the temperature at which heated the oil begins to produce smoke and burn. When this happens, it causes the healthy components of the oil to degrade into damaging free radicals. Because each type of oil has a different smoke point, certain oils are better for different types of cooking techniques. The higher the cooking temperature (frying, for example), the higher you want the oil’s smoke point to be to prevent it from burning.

Refined Versus Unrefined Cooking Oils

Cooking oils are extracted from plants, nuts and seeds. This extraction can be from the use of pressure (also known as cold-pressing) or processing using mechanical, thermal and/or chemical processes. The refinement of an oil can change both the flavor and the smoke point. The more refined the oil, the higher the smoke point. The less processed the oil is, the more flavorful the oil will be.

 Types of Oils

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)An unrefined and unaltered oil extracted from olives

  • Nutrition: A very high monounsaturated fat composition. Additionally, EVOO contains hydroxytyrosol, which is a phytonutrient that protects vascular health.
  • Flavor: Intense olive taste, fruitier flavor and low acid
  • Smoke Point: Low (around 325 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Cooking: Use for lower-heat cooking or in baking to substitute for butter. Best in salad dressings or dips where the flavor can take center stage.
     

Olive Oil: Blend of EVOO (usually around 10%) combined with refined olive oil

  • Nutrition: A high monounsaturated fat composition
  • Flavor: Mild, lighter and less olive-like flavor
  • Smoke Point: Medium (ranging from 400-450 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Cooking: Use it for low- to medium-temperature cooking, such as sautéing and stir-frying.

 Canola OilA refined oil extracted from the seed of a yellow flowering plant called a rapeseed

  • Nutrition: A high composition of both mono- and polyunsaturated fats
  • Flavor: Very light; allows the flavors of the food to shine
  • Smoke Point: Medium smoke point (around 425 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Cooking: Works well for medium-temperature cooking such as sautéing and stir-frying.
     

Nut/Seed Oil (such as walnut or pumpkin): Unrefined oil extracted from nuts/seeds

  • Nutrition: A high composition of polyunsaturated fats. Additionally, both walnut and pumpkin oils have a high linolenic acid content, which converts to omega-3s to support heart health.
  • Flavor: A rich nutty flavor
  • Smoke Point: Very low (around 320 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Cooking: Best when not cooked at all or only at very low cooking temperatures. Instead, use it to add a tasty flavor to salad dressings and marinades.
     

Peanut OilA refined oil made from peanuts

  • Nutrition: A high composition of both mono- and polyunsaturated fats
  • Flavor: A strong peanut flavor and aroma
  • Smoke Point: High (around 450 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Cooking: Ideal for frying foods or making popcorn. Also, great to use when you want to give a slight peanut flavor to food.

Avocado OilA refined oil made from the fruit of an avocado

  • Nutrition: A very high composition of monounsaturated fats
  • Flavor: A delicate, buttery and slightly nutty flavor profile
  • Smoke Point: Very high when refined (around 520 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Cooking: Versatile; can be used in both high-heat cooking or as a finishing oil on salads

Coconut OilA refined oil made from the meat of a coconut

  • Nutrition: A high saturated-fat ratio
  • Flavor: A slightly sweet coconut flavor
  • Smoke Point: Low to medium (around 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Cooking: Most commonly used in baked goods, but can lend a delicious coconut flavor to sautéing or stir-frying.