Cooking Oils 101

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(Photo: iStock)

If your cooking routine always starts with tossing some olive oil around in your pan, it’s time to broaden your culinary horizon.

While olive oil is a great cooking oil with countless nutritional benefits, there are lots of other options to consider based on what dish you’re making and how you plan to prepare it. But not all oils are created equal; if you’re looking to up your cooking game, it’s imperative to learn which oils perform best at different temperatures. Having more than one type of oil on hand in your kitchen can be the difference between a delicious, well-cooked meal and a mediocre one.

Low Temperature Cooking And Baking:
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laxseed Oil, Unrefined Walnut Oil, Unrefined Olive Oil and Butter
These oils have the lowest smoke point, or the temperature at which it begins to break down, smoke and start to taste bad. At the smoke point, both the flavor and nutritional value begin to decrease. So use these oils for lower-temperature cooking like baking, simmering and low-heat pan frying.

One thing to note: buying higher quality versions of these oils increases the smoke point. A good example of this is clarified butter, which smokes at 485 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a good option for high-heat cooking.

Medium Heat Cooking and Frying:
Coconut Oil, Canola Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Grapeseed Oil
These oils can be used for low-heat and cold preparations, as well as in the oven or on top of the stove. The most flexible oil in this category, however, is grapeseed oil, which smokes at approximately 420 degrees Fahrenheit.

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High Heat Grilling And Deep Frying:
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eanut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Avocado Oil, Sesame Oil, Palm Oil and Ghee
These oils have the very highest smoke points and are able to withstand the most heat. Because of this, they’re often used in situations like broiling, deep frying, stir frying or brushing on the grill where there is direct contact with a flame.

Finishing Touches
Use a high-quality olive oil, peanut oil or avocado oil for dressings, sautés, pizzas and any meal that might need a finishing flavor, as these oils impart their flavor well. Another tasty idea is to pair your oil with a flavor-infused vinegar; the sky is the limit when it comes to purchasing flavors, or you can experiment with making your own.