Did you know that the type of oil you cook with matters?
Turns out, the type of oil you should be using when you cook depends on how you are preparing your food. It all comes down to something called smoke-point. Smoke-point is the temperature at which an oil starts to burn and smoke. What does this mean? At a low smoke point, fats are oxidized which essentially means they are broken down easily under high heat posing a threat to your health due to free radicals. On the other hand, a high smoke point means that fats are not as easily broken down and are more stable at higher temperatures, which means they won’t wreak havoc on your health.
What oil to use and when?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is one of the most popular and healthy oils and for a good reason. EVOO is packed with monounsaturated fats and antioxidants which makes it a heart-healthy option. Not to mention, it tastes amazing! Despite this, EVOO has a lower smoke point, around 405 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that you should not be sauteing, baking, or frying with this oil unless you are doing so at a low temperature. Instead, save EVOO till your food is plated and use it as a dressing or to drizzle over your dish!
Curious what oil you should be using instead? Try avocado oil!
Avocado oil is also full of monounsaturated fat and antioxidants making it a healthy option. Unlike EVOO, avocado oil is known for its high smoke point, around 520 degrees Fahrenheit, making it very versatile and the perfect option for high-heat cooking. This includes sauteing, baking, and frying, but note that avocado oil is almost always a good option.
Now that we’ve covered two cooking staples, let’s jump into some other oils!
Coconut Oil has gained popularity recently due to its composition of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which may boost brain function and yummy taste. Coconut oil has a low smoke-point at around 350 degrees Fahrenheit. That being said, it is best when drizzled over dishes once prepared, or used with low-heat. Note that while coconut oil has its benefits it is saturated fat and should be used in moderation.
Sesame oil is commonly used in Asian dishes due to its flavor. Sesame oil is composed of both mono and polyunsaturated fats making it a healthy choice. This oil has a smoke point of around 410 degrees Fahrenheit which is slightly higher than olive oils. Use this oil as a flavor enhancer on dishes, but again do not use it under high-heat.
Ghee is a clarified butter meaning that it does not contain lactose, making it a good alternative for those who are lactose-intolerant. Ghee is high in saturated fats and omega-3’s and has a relatively high smoke point around 485 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of this ghee is a good option for sauteing at medium-heat, in baked goods, and as an overall alternative to butter.
Oils to stay away from regardless of their smoke point
Other common oils such as vegetable oils like corn, canola, soybean, and safflower oils are heavily processed and should try to be avoided as much as possible. These oils are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats but contain high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids making them inflammatory and harmful to your health.
The bottom line
Both the quality and smoke-point of oils matter. Oils with a high smoke point include avocado oil and ghee making them a great go-to for any type of cooking. Oils with lower smoke-points include EVOO, coconut oil, and sesame oil.