Choosing the Right Cooking Oil

Choosing the Right Cooking Oil

  • Read the label. Keep an eye out for words like virgin (and extra-virgin if you’re using olive oil), organic, cold-pressed, unfiltered or unrefined. These terms indicate a quality product. Some olive and nut oils will be marked with a harvest date, stating when the fruits were picked and milled. Choose the freshest oil on the shelf for the best flavor.

  • Avoid blended oils. Mixed oils, sometimes called "Vegetable Oil," can increase inflammation which has been linked to cancer, heart disease, arthritis, dementia, and diabetes.

  • Consider an oil’s smoke point. When heating oil in a pan, first it shimmers, then it starts to smoke. The temperature when the smoke starts blowing is key to knowing what oil to use. Once an oil is heated past its smoke point, the fat starts to break down, releasing harmful free radicals and toxins. Overheated oils will begin to degrade, develop an acrid flavor, and potentially dangerous ignitable gases.

For Salads: Flavor is the number one concern when you’re choosing an oil that’s not going to be heated. Pull out your best quality extra virgin olive oil, or splurge on a flavor-packed walnut or sesame oil for salad dressings and uncooked sauces like pesto or chimichurri. These also make great condiments for drizzling on roasted or raw vegetables.

For Sautéing: Look for oils with a medium smoke point, at least 350°F. A virgin olive oil (not your top-shelf extra virgin stuff), coconut, and grapeseed oil are all good choices

For Stir Frying: You want an oil with a high smoke point, around 450°F or more. Peanut and safflower oil are both good choices. Stir-fries cook fast and you want oil that’s extra hot to brown the ingredients quickly so that they retain some of their crunch.