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What Oil is Best for Cooking?

When it comes to cooking oils, there’s a dizzying array of choices available. Each oil has its own unique blend of fat, protein, and vitamin content that makes it ideal for different kinds of cooking. In general, there are three main types of oils that are commonly used in home kitchens: neutral oils, high-heat oils, and olive oils. Depending on your personal preferences and the properties of the food you’re cooking, one type is likely to be more useful than another. Neutral oils are cooking oils that have very mild, almost imperceptible flavour and are best when a neutral base for recipes is needed. Their use won't impact the taste of the final product. High-heat oils can tolerate higher temperatures without oxidizing or going bad as quickly as other oils; they have a high smoke-point and are great for frying. Olive oil has numerous organoleptic properties and is ideal for dishes that call for an extra touch of flavour. No single oil can be considered the best overall for all circumstances, but we'll take a look at each type in detail so that, next time you're in the kitchen, you'll be able to pair the right oil with the right preparation!

cooking with olive oil

Neutral Oils

Also commonly called “vegetable oils”, these are usually obtained by pressing or extracting oils from a variety of vegetables, fruits, and legumes. They’re typically a blend of different oils and are sold under a wide range of different brand names. Because these oils are unbranded or mixed oils, they're usually the cheapest on the market. This, however, does not necessarily mean they're not of good quality. Their advantage is that they usually have a very mild or hardly perceptible flavour, so they're great for those recipes you do not want to modify with the flavour of the oil you choose to use. They are seldom used raw, as a condiment for food, because they do not add taste to dishes. They do bring a nutritional value to recipes, but are less useful for high-temperature cooking: not all of them are indicated for frying, for example. Only some neutral oils, such as safflower or sunflower oil, have a high smoke point and are ok for frying foods; these are neutral oils that are also high-heat oils. Others, like grape seed oil, have a lower smoke point and are better for sautéing. Neutral oils are also indicated for baking and general cooking, as they provide a fatty neutral base. Among neutral oils, the most flavorless are considered to be sunflower oil and soybean oil.

High-Heat Oils

High-heat oils are typically single-source oils that are ideal for high-temperature cooking. They are often more expensive than neutral oils or mixed vegetable oils because they are of a single variety. Most high-heat oils are therefore pressed from single plants, but they can also be a blend of different oils that all have a tested high smoke point. High-heat oils include peanut oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil and canola oil. All of these oils are excellent for deep-frying and sautéing. High-heat oils tend to oxidize less quickly than other oils, which is why they’re a better choice for high-temperature cooking. These oils can tolerate high temperatures without releasing harmful chemicals or spoiling. In addition, all high-heat oils can be used for general cooking and baking. A particular example of high-heat oil is coconut oil: coconut oil has recently gained popularity and is considered by some to be among the high-heat oils; however, if it's not refined, it's best to use it for cooking at medium heat. It has a light coconut flavour, which could pair well with some dishes but clash with others.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is pressed from olives and has been used for thousands of years by numerous cultures around the world. It’s an extremely versatile oil that can be utilized for cooking as well as a condiment in salads, soups and other dishes. Olive oil comes from a wide range of regions, each of which confers a distinct flavor to the oil produced in that specific area. Blends of olive oil from different places and trees are common, so you can control the flavor of your cooking by picking a specific blend. There are also extra virgin olive oils, which are the highest quality olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is a great all-around cooking oil that can be used for sautéing and baking, and some even like to use it for frying. It’s a versatile oil that works well in high-temperature cooking, but it does confer its flavour to the preparation. The taste of olive oil can be mild and sweet or sharp and acidic, so depending on the type you choose, this type of oil can either add flavor to a dish without overpowering it or it can add a very distinguishable note to the preparation. For more delicate or neutral preparations, some prefer to use other high-heat oils, as they do not modify the flavour of the recipe.

Summing up

Oils come in a wide range of types and flavors, which makes them excellent for adding a new dimension to dishes. What oil is best for cooking? It all depends on the temperature you're going to expose your oil to. This determines whether to choose a high-heat oil or not, which is very important since some oils that do not tolerate high temperatures can release harmful chemicals once they’ve reached their smoke-point. Having gotten that out of the way, the best oil is the one that you like to use and that brings out the best flavors in your dish. So, next time you’re in the kitchen, pick a flavor of oil and experiment with it in your cooking. You’ll surely find the right oil for your tastes and needs!


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