Not all oils are created equal. Some are suited to high-temperature cooking, while others are packed with flavor when left unheated. A visit to the oil aisle at your local grocery store will do little to help clear the air — there will likely be over a dozen cooking oils on offer. So, which do you choose? How do you use them? And what are the rest of them for? Anybody Can Chef! is here to help.
Light or “Regular” Olive Oil
Typically, any kind of olive oil that isn’t explicitly labeled “Extra Virgin” will fall under this category. But, all kinds of olive oil are made by the same process. Olives are crushed into a paste, from which the oil is removed. That pure oil is the ‘extra virgin’ olive oil. Meanwhile, Light or Regular Olive Oil is made when the extra virgin oil is treated and mixed with processed oils and solvents. These are not dangerous to humans, but they do make the olive oil more affordable and more suited to high-temperature cooking. Regular olive oil is lighter in color than EVOO, and has a much higher smoking point (the temperature at which the oil burns and creates smoke). We suggest olive oil for sauteeing and high heat cooking.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is a flavor-rich oil that is the pure, unadulterated result of cold-pressing olives. It can be as flavor-rich as a fine wine, having notes from fruity and bright to bitter and herbaceous. Because extra virgin olive oil is so flavor-rich, it should generally not be used for cooking. All of these flavors are going to be destroyed by heat, and if they weren’t, they’d be lost in the final dish anyways. Instead, save the EVOO for making vinaigrettes or dipping sauces. It can also be used to drizzle over finished soups and salads for an extra depth of flavor.
Peanut oil is a decent alternative to regular olive oil for cooking, but it has a very distinct and pronounced nutty flavor. For this reason, we suggest using peanut oil only for cooking with complementary flavors, including those found in Asian or Middle Eastern Cuisine — like our Mongolian Steak Bowls. Because it has a high smoke point (about 450˚), peanut oil is great for high heat cooking, as well as at-home deep-frying.
At room temperature, coconut oil is solid. This means it shouldn’t be used for vinaigrettes or finishing. With a moderate smoke point of 350˚, coconut oil isn’t great for high-heat cooking, either. Coconut oil is a good substitute for butter in baked goods, though, and brings a great tropical flavor when gently heated.
Vegetable oil is often seen as the ‘workhorse’ oil. It’s a blend of many different types of oils, carries no flavor or scent, and has a high smoke point of about 425˚. Vegetable oil adds no flavor to dishes, making it ideal for high-heat cooking. For perfectly crispy salmon skin, we recommend vegetable oil.
Canola oil is pressed from the grapeseed plant, and is essentially interchangeable with vegetable oil. It has no flavor or scent, and carries a very similar smoke point. It can be used in salad dressings, but we suggest olive oil for its more nuanced flavor. Many restaurants choose canola oil for everyday cookery, due to its performance and cost benefits.
Less expensive than EVOO, grapeseed oil can be seen as the middle ground between canola oil and higher-end EVOO.
Grapeseed oil carries a very clean, pleasant flavor that works well with most ingredients. It also boasts a high smoke point that is ideal for high-temperature cooking.
With all this said, which kind of oil do you think you need to stock up on the most? If you’re still not sure, allow us to make your cooking life easier with Anybody Can Chef! All our meal plans, once shipped to you, includes only high-quality ingredients AND an easy-to-follow recipe card for your chosen dish!