If you do any amount of cooking, you'll know that cooking oils are an everyday ingredient and that there's more out there than some may think. Cooking oils can be used in all sorts of applications like sautéing, deep frying, salad dressings, cake batter components and more. Some cooking oils like canola or vegetable are used throughout all types of cooking while others like sesame oil or coconut oil have more specialized applications. Read on to learn more about common types of cooking oils, their different qualities and when to best use them.
Canola oil comes from the rapeseed plant, and it's similar to vegetable oil. It has a neutral flavor and has a relatively high smoke point. It does, however, go rancid in about a year. You'll be able to smell when it does, but keep it stored in a cool, dark place away from the stovetop.
When to use it: Canola oil is a great cooking oil to use in a lot of applications, including high-heat sautéing, frying and baking. It can also be used in most baking recipes when it calls for oil. You can also use it in salad dressings alongside vegetable oil, but it won't give any extra flavor to your salad. Try canola oil in recipes like our Marinated Fried Chicken.
Vegetable oil is made of a blend of different refined oils, has a neutral taste and a smoke point around 400˚F. For reference, a smoke point is the temperature an oil can be heated to before it starts to smoke or burn. You don't want to heat oils at temperatures beyond their smoke points or they'll start to smoke and ruin your delicious recipes.
When to use it: Vegetable oil is a good all-around cooking oil used in high-heat sautéing, deep frying, and roasting. It can also be used in baking recipes or salad dressings.
Corn oil is a refined oil made from, you guessed it, corn. It is neutral tasting with a very high smoke point at around 450˚F. It also is an affordable oil.
When to use it: Corn oil's high smoke point makes it perfect for deep frying. Try making your own yuca bites at home!
Extra virgin olive oil is made from pressed olives and has tons of flavor that can range between buttery, spicy, fruity or grassy notes. It has a pretty low smoking point at 325˚F so it's not meant for high-heat cooking or frying.
When to use it: Extra virgin olive oil is best used when you don't need to cook it, like in salad dressings and vinaigrettes. You can pan fry some things with extra virgin olive oil, but you need to be careful not to let it get too hot or the oil will start smoking.
Coconut oil is a unique cooking oil in that it becomes solid at room temperature. It's good for moderate heat cooking, but nothing too high-heat like frying. Also, because it's solid at room temps, it's not great for salad dressings or cold dishes. It does keep its coconut taste and smell, so only use it if you and your family like coconut flavors.
Peanut oil has a pale color but packs plenty of flavor and fragrance. It can go rancid quickly, but it's tasty when used in many Asian cuisine dishes. If you want to try peanut oil, make sure to get a smaller bottle and use it within a few months. It has a fairly high smoke point of 450 so you can use it in deep-frying as well.
Sesame oil is another strongly flavored oil that adds a nutty flavor to whatever you're cooking it with. It does have a high smoke point so you can use it in frying and roasting, but make sure you like the taste of it before using large amounts. It is also popular in Asian cuisine in noodle dishes, rice bowls and soups.
When to use it: Use it in smaller amounts in dumplings or a stir-fry, or for sautéing, frying and roasts.
While there are definitely more cooking oils out there than the eight on this list, these are just some of the more common oils you may encounter on your cooking adventures. Now that you know a little more about these cooking oils, get out there and try something different.