What's the Best Cooking Oil?

Question:
What’s the best cooking oil?
What’s the best oil for deep frying? What’s the best oil for salads? What’s the best oil for baking? And, for those who choose not to mess with storing a bunch of multiple oils, what’s the best all purpose oil?

Answer:
The best cooking oil to use depends upon what type of cooking is being done.
For frying, the most important attribute of the chosen oil should be its smoke point. For making salads, the most important attributes are lightness and taste.

Best Cooking Oil

What's the Best Cooking Oil?

What's the Best Cooking Oil?

With so many choices of oils available on the grocery shelves, the question of the best oil becomes more and more subjective as the shelving expands. Oils are now made from all sorts of different plants, which gives each a slight advantage or disadvantage over the other. Let’s take a look at some of the most common oils used for cooking and note their attributes.

Best Cooking Oil
Oil Smoke Point Attributes Uses
Canola   400°F Flavorless All purpose oil
Coconut – Refined  400°F Mild Coconut flavor High Smoke Point
Coconut – Unrefined  350°F Strong Coconut flavor Low smoke point, solid at room temperature, great for vegan desserts
Corn 450°F Odorless, Tasteless High smoke point
Grapeseed   445°F Contains mostly polyunsaturated oils, best substitute for olive oil Delicate and goes rancid quickly – store this one in the refrigerator
Extra Virgin Olive   325°F-465°F Strong olive flavor Best finishing oil
Pure Olive   465°F Neutral taste & color Best all purpose oil
Peanut   450°F Light yet nutty flavor Best for deep frying and stir frying
Safflower  510°F Good for searing and frying
Sunflower   450°F Light yet nutty flavor Best for deep frying and stir frying


What’s a smoke point?
The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil begins to burn, or smoke. At this point, the oil releases chemicals that can be harmful which produce both cooking odors and bad flavor. The trick is to always cook at a temperature below the smoke point for the oil being used, especially if the cooking method is a deep fry.

Considerations?
For high temperature cooking, select cooking oils with a high smoke point. For low temperature cooking choose oils with higher Omega-3 fatty acids since they help to decrease inflammation and promote healthy cells.

Can oil be re-used?
Oil that is used only for deep frying can be used over and over several times. The high heat of frying makes this OK.

What does “extra virgin” add to olive oil?
To be classified as extra virgin, the olive oil must have a complex flavor, contain low acidity and possess a fresh aroma. Although these attributes are slightly subjective qualities, they make each label of virgin olive oil unique. Taste can range from delicate to bold and from fruity to spicy. Many people keep two bottles of olive oil on hand – a cheaper olive oil for cooking and an extra-virgin one for finishing, dipping and drizzling.

Storage?
Finally, always remember to store all oils away from heat, light and air to prevent them from going rancid before their time. A tightly closed container stored in a cool, dark place is the best location for all olive oils (and the majority of other oils too).

What's the Best Cooking Oil?

Additional Information

For U.S. regulations specific to olive oils and more on the different classifications of olive oils, see our olive oil comparison page.

If the best extra virgin olive oil is desired, check the label for a specific grove location and the freshest harvest date possible. A hand stamped harvest date usually indicates the highest quality extra virgin olive oils available.

For more on the shelf life of various oils, see our oil page.

For specifics on coconut oil, see our coconut oil page.

To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

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