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The Best Cooking Oils for Every Occasion

by News Times USA


What are the best cooking oils? That question deserves a nuanced answer. In terms of performance and flavor, not all cooking oils are created equal. Some are ideal for cooking at high temperatures—think deep-frying and sautéing. Others are super flavorful and can add another layer of depth to your dishes, but burn (and become chemically altered) when heated. Additionally, some types of oils bring an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants. How do you differentiate among them all? And how do you store them? How long will they last? So many questions! Thankfully, we’ve got the answers. Behold: the BA guide to cooking oils, a breakdown of the best oils for every kitchen task.

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is high in monounsaturated fat (typically touted as a good fat or healthy fat) and is generally considered one of the healthiest cooking oils. Refined avocado oil also has a higher smoke point than most plant-based cooking oils (about 520° Fahrenheit), which makes it one of the most efficient pantry items. Use it for sautéing, roasting, searing, grilling, and drizzling. It has a mild, buttery flavor that works well in both sweet and savory recipes. “I love using avocado oil for daily cooking because it is subtle and doesn’t overpower the flavor of the dish,” says associate food editor Rachel Gurjar. Once you open it, there’s no need to refrigerate it—just store it in a cool, dark place.

Nutiva Extra Virgin Avocado Oil Pouch

​​Chosen Foods Avocado Oil


Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

All olive oil is made by crushing the olives into a paste and then extracting and discarding the excess water from the mixture. This can be done on a stone press, but on a commercial scale it’s often completed with high-tech steel machinery. The resulting oil is extra-virgin olive oil. It is robust in flavor and can have buttery, spicy, fruity, or grassy notes, depending on the olives’ point of origin. EVOO, which is predominantly a monounsaturated fat, has a smoke point of about 350°. This means it isn’t the best option for high-heat cooking techniques, like deep-frying. (Though, we do love using it for a medium-heat sear or shallow fry. Case in point: These delicious olive oil–basted fried eggs.) Mostly, we’re saving it for vinaigrettes or using it as a finishing oil. May we suggest it for this Mediterranean herb jam or this shallot yogurt?

La Tourangelle and California Olive Ranch are two of our test kitchen’s favorite brands. Associate food editor Kendra Vaculin regularly turns to California Olive Ranch’s Global Blend Medium, because “It’s mellow enough to use for everyday cooking, but has a bit of fruity grassiness that shines as a finishing oil and in salad dressing.”

Everyday Medium Extra Virgin Olive Oil

La Tourangelle Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Light (Sometimes Called Pure or Regular) Olive Oil

Light olive oil is extra-virgin olive oil that has been processed with chemical solvents and/or heat to neutralize its flavor. Unlike EVOO, this olive oil has a more neutral taste and lighter color as well as a higher smoke point of 465–470°, making it suitable for high-heat cooking. The neutral flavor means it’s a great option for making infused oils (which is a lot easier than it sounds). Since it’s also cheaper than extra-virgin olive oil, you may want to use it as the base of your vinaigrettes. Just finish them off with EVOO to add more flavor.


Peanut Oil

Peanut oil is composed of both saturated and unsaturated fats. You can find unrefined varieties, which have a powerful scent and flavor and a smoke point of 350°, as well as refined varieties, which have more subtle flavor and a higher smoke point of 450°. As you might have guessed, refined peanut oil is great for deep-frying (we’d bust it out for this excellent skillet-fried chicken). Unrefined peanut oil is tasty in marinades and dishes like this Thai chicken larb. Gurjar often turns to peanut oil when she makes specific Indian dishes, like karela sabzi or aloo tikki: “I love the nutty flavor it brings.”

La Tourangelle Roasted Peanut Oil

Turn to peanut oil for the perfect fish and chips.


Red Palm Oil

Unrefined red palm oil is a highly saturated fat derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree (not to be confused with palm kernel oil, which comes from the seeds of the same plant and is yellow in color). Palm oil has an orange-red hue and is semisolid at room temperature. It is commonly used in the cuisine of West Africa and its diaspora. And because palm oil is relatively affordable, it often substitutes for butter in commercial baking. With a smoke point just over 450°, it’s a great oil for frying and brings a smoky, floral flavor. Make these spaghetti squash fritters fried in palm oil and they’ll surely come out delicious.

Nutiva Organic Red Palm Oil (Pack of 2)


Coconut Oil

Unrefined coconut oil (a.k.a. virgin coconut oil) has a robust coconut flavor and aroma with a smoke point of 350°, while refined coconut oil has a neutral flavor and a higher smoke point of 400°. Coconut oil also has a high saturated fat content, which makes it solid at room temperature—not ideal for use in vinaigrettes or as a finishing oil but good in baked goods, like this rich chocolate-coconut pound cake. These 32 recipes offer some great ways to cook with coconut oil, from a carrot soup to waffles.

Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Nutiva Refined Coconut Oil


Corn Oil

Refined corn oil is often used in frying, thanks to its smoke point of 450°. It has a neutral flavor, and is used frequently in commercial kitchens because of its low price point. Not sure what to use it for? French fries are a solid win, every time.


Vegetable Oil

This is typically a blend of many different refined oils and commonly includes soybean oil. It’s neutral-tasting and -smelling and has a smoke point of about 400° (although it can vary, depending on the oils used in the blend). Because it doesn’t add much flavor, it’s good for high-heat sautéing and is generally our fry oil of choice. Plus, it’s inexpensive. Wanna get crispy-skinned fish or perfectly golden scallops? Veggie oil’s your guy.

Crisco Pure Vegetable Oil


Canola Oil

Pressed from the rapeseed plant, canola oil is similar to vegetable oil in flavor, color, smoke point, and usage qualities. The biggest difference between the two (and why some people prefer canola oil to vegetable oil), is that when you get canola oil, you know exactly what’s in it—as opposed to vegetable oil, which is a vague blend of ingredients. Canola oil is a good source of both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, so it is often considered a heart-healthy cooking oil. Both canola and vegetable oil can be used in a number of sauces and dressings, like this miso pesto or this vinaigrette, but we recommend finishing with EVOO for more flavor. It’ll go rancid in about one year—your nose will tell you when it’s time to toss the bottle. Store it in a cool, dark place, away from the stovetop and oven.

La Tourangelle Organic Canola Oil

Spectrum Naturals Oil Canola


Grapeseed Oil

Grapeseed oil is light green in color and prized by restaurant chefs for its high smoke point (420°)—but also for its clean, plays-well-with-others taste. It’s often used in vinaigrettes because it’s less expensive than EVOO and allows other ingredients (like specialty oils or herbs) to shine through.

La Tourangelle Grapeseed Oil


Sunflower Oil

With a smoke point of 450°, sunflower oil is the pantry hero for all things sear- and sauté-related (like these hearty salmon steaks). It has a mild flavor that won’t overpower other ingredients and it’s also high in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. For the best results when cooking, store your sunflower oil in a cool place and use it within a year.

Thrive Market Sunflower Oil

La Tourangelle Sunflower Oil


Sesame Oil

Refined sesame oil has a high smoke point of 410° and a relatively neutral flavor. It’s a great general-purpose oil (use it for sautés, roasts, and more), but if it’s a big, flavorful finish you’re looking for, use its nuttier sibling, toasted sesame oil. Store it with the veggie and canola oil in a cool cupboard. As far as brands go, Vaculin loves Kadoya and buys it in 56-oz. tins: “We churn through toasted sesame oil at home, and there’s no substitute for its nutty, rich flavor—as a condiment with crispy rice and fried eggs, in marinades and sauces, or providing a fragrant element to broths and soups (like Jessie YuChen’s amazing drunken clams).”

Spectrum Organic Sesame Oil


Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp seed oil has a very rich, nutty flavor and dark green color. It’s too sensitive to be heated, so skip the sauté and use it as a finishing oil for soups or grain bowls. If using it in a vinaigrette, cut with a less-intense, more neutral oil, like light olive oil. Store it in the fridge. (For more on hemp seeds and hemp seed oil, check out our guide.)

Nutiva Cold-Pressed Unrefined Hemp Oil

Just Hemp Natural Hemp Seed Oil


Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseed oil is loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids and generally has a nutty, earthy flavor, but using too much can impart a fishy funkiness. Add it sparingly to dressings or as a finisher—like hemp seed oil, we don’t recommend heating it—and keep it in the fridge.

La Tourangelle Organic Flaxseed Oil


Toasted Nut and Other Seed Oils (Walnut Oil, Pistachio Oil, Pumpkin Seed Oil…)

These oils are delicate and have a low smoke point, so don’t heat them at all. But they’re big on flavor! They make a rich, luxurious addition to soups and salads (we particularly like this Blood Orange and Beet number with pumpkin seed oil). If using in a vinaigrette, don’t waste half a bottle (they’re expensive!). Make the dressing with a light olive oil or other neutral-tasting oil, and “top it off” with the nut oil.

La Tourangelle Toasted Pumpkin Seed Oil

This article was originally published in 2017 and updated in 2022.



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