written by
Danielle Gadus

Cooking Oil Explained: Our Top 5 Favorites of All Time

4 min read

It’s easy to get lost in the options of cooking oil to choose from. Lucky for you, we share our top 5 favorite oils of all time. Whether you wanna stick with tried and true tricks or get creative in the kitchen, these are our favs to use.

If you haven’t read last week’s blog, it’s a great starting point to understand why it’s so important to use more than one type of oil depending on what you’re cooking.

Spoiler: it has a lot to do with temperature. (When you reach a certain smoke point, the nutrients in the oil break down and free radicals are released.)

Italian Ingredients
Photographer: Joanna Kosinska | Source: Unsplash

In no particular order:

1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Yummm, this flavorful oil blends nicely into a wide array of dishes.

From salads to pastas to... well… literally anything. It’s one of the most widely studied oils and is packed with heart healthy monounsaturated fats and some polyunsaturated fatty acids.“Extra virgin” means the oil is not refined or overly processed aka a high quality choice.

The catch? Extra virgin olive oil has a rather low smoke point (from about 325 to 375degrees F), so you don’t want to use it in high-heat situations.

  • Best for: drizzling, dressings, sautéing and low-medium heat cooking.
  • Not for: cooking at any temp above 375

2. Coconut Oil

Alrighty, Here’s the most controversial oil on this list.

While the wellness industry has made this sweet tasting oil out to be a renowned superfood, there’s conflicting science behind the claims.

We’re not here to knock coconut oil! We believe it has a time and a place, but we want to provide you with the hard facts.

“The main point of conflict is its high saturated fat content; unlike other plant-based oils, coconut oil is primarily a saturated fat.” -Time.com

Traditional science (including the American Heart Association) has long bashed saturated fats, but new studies are showing that this may not be the case. The takeaway is that coconut oil raises both your good and bad cholesterol levels, but its ratio of these levels that is important.

With a multitude of studies and perspectives out there, we’ll let you make your own call on the saturated fat battle.

What we can tell you, however, is the smoke point of virgin coconut oil is about 350 degrees F and it’s an amazingly creamy substitute for butter when baking. The math is easy here: as long as it’s is a similar consistency to butter, the ratio is 1:1 as a replacement. It’s also a great moisturizer for external use!

  • Best for: baking, sautéing, a creamy addition to smoothies
  • Not for: frying or high heat
Photographer: Zahir Namane | Source: Unsplash

3. Canola Oil

You guys actually cook with this stuff?

Unlike coconut oil, canola has gotten a really bad rap in the wellness community. Derived from rapeseed, a flowering plant, it contains a decent amount of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.

A favorite to use for frying because of its high smoke point and neutral flavor. However, it has a high smoke point because it’s chemically processed, which means less nutrients are present.

Flavor wise, there’s not a lot going on here, so chefs don’t use it when sautéing.

  • Best for: frying, baking, roasting
  • Not for: sautéing, drizzling, dressings

4. Sesame Oil

One of the oldest known crop based oils.

We love to use this to amp up the flavor of a dish. It has a great amount of fatty acids. It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, so it’s popular in natural medicine.

Light sesame oil, great for frying, has a nutty flavor and high smoke point. Toasted sesame oil is thicker, darker and more flavorful. It has a lower smoke point but, it’s suitable for finishing a stir-fry or in a salad dressing.

Word to the wise: a little goes a long way with sesame flavor.

  • Best for: stir fry, powerful flavor (best temperatures vary based on the type)
  • Not for: a dish with other flavors you want to shine

5. Avocado oil

Millennials love their avocados...

Self Magazine quoted Lisa Sasson, clinical associate professor of nutrition at NYU Steinhardt stating:

“ avocado oil is the new kid on the block [...] beloved by the clean-eating community.”

With a high smoke point (375 to 400 degrees F) and neutral flavor, it’s great for cooking and stir-fry.

Unlike canola oil (or similar vegetable oils), it’s not refined through chemical processing. It has one of the highest amounts of monounsaturated fats of cooking oils on this list and is full of vitamin e. Expect a slight creaminess you would find in an avocado. Also expect a generally more expensive price tag.

  • Good for: frying, high heat cooking, avoiding processed foods, ballin’ out
  • Not for: ballin’ on a budget
An italian snack
Photographer: Calum Lewis | Source: Unsplash

Have you tried the old coconut oil instead of butter switch? Maybe you’re staying true to your trusty olive oil. Let us know! Now that you have the knowledge, gain some cooking inspo: pages of beautiful food on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.