I am not going to talk about the nutritional aspects of different oils or tell you which one you should use in your cooking, that is a matter of personal preference, but I want to cover a few basics about oils and cooking.
The most important thing to remember is that oils have different smoke points.
This means that when an oil is heated up to a high temperature, an oil with a low smoke point will start smoking and burning whatever you are cooking at a much lower temperature than an oil that has a high smoke point. You should never use an oil that has a low smoke point when you’re cooking something at a high temperature, like searing a steak, making stir fry, sauteing and especially frying.
High Smoke Point Oils: canola, vegetable, peanut, sunflower, safflower, soybean, corn, grapeseed.
Low Smoke Point Oils: olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, butter.
Butter isn’t technically an oil, but I wanted to include it hear to show you shouldn’t be cooking with butter if you need to use a high temperature. If you’ve ever wondered why whatever you’re cooking seems to be burning without cooking through quickly enough, this may be the reason why.
A trick that I use sometimes is to use half olive oil/butter and half canola oil if I want to have the taste of butter or olive oil, but need to cook my food on a higher temperature.
I found a really great chart about oils that includes smoke points and the percentage and types of fat in each oil (saturated, mono and poly fats).
Oils in baking:
How To Store Oils:
Strong sunlight will oxidize the chlorophyll in the oil, producing stale, harsh flavors. Heat also plays a role in causing oil to go rancid, so storing it in the refrigerator will help prolong the shelf life of your oil. I simply don’t buy oil in bulk, so I keep it stored in my closed pantry.
Shelf life for most oils: 1 year if unopened, 3 months if opened.
What kind of oils are in my pantry?
Am I a supreme authority on oils? No way! This is just my personal preference. By no means do you need to use the same oils that I do.
Canola is my all-purpose oil, olive oil I like to use for Italian sauces, roasting veggies in the oven and in salads.
I have a really handy oil dispenser standing right next to the stove. I love it! Pouring oil from this dispenser is very neat and efficient. Since I use it up pretty quickly, it doesn’t get a chance to go rancid standing on the counter.
I don’t use sunflower oil in many things, mostly in dishes that I want to get a nostalgic Russian taste, like some salads and pan fried potatoes, etc. In the former Soviet Union countries, sunflower oil was very popular. Many years ago it was one of the only available oils.
Here’s a great article about choosing healthier oils. It’s very informative but doesn’t go into too much scientific mumbo jumbo.
And here’s another great article about oils from Whole Foods.
What oils do you use in your kitchen?