In the cooking aisle of a grocery store, the available oils range from olive, corn, canola and vegetable cooking oils to specialty oils like sesame oil or walnut oil. Choosing the correct oil for your needs is easier when you know how to compare their ingredients and preferred uses.
Sesame oil pressed from raw seeds has a smoke point of 420 degrees F; oil pressed from toasted seeds retains a relatively high smoke point for stir-fry cooking as well. The smoke points of vegetable oils are typically undefined, though, because vegetable oils are blended from many sources. Vegetable oils are generally considered to have high smoke points suitable for longer durations of frying and cooking.
Sesame oil products contain 100% oil pressed from sesame seeds. The pure oil can be diluted with bland oils to make a sesame-flavored dressing for salads or side dishes. Vegetable oil sources may not be identified on an ingredient list. However, the most common oils blended into vegetable oil are from corn and soybean sources; sunflower and safflower oils may be included as well.
Sesame oils are highly flavorful and are used in small quantities in stir-fry and other Asian dishes for their distinct taste. Conversely, vegetable oils of any blend are mild enough for baking or sauteing without adding extra flavor to the dishes.
Sesame allergy is on the list of top allergens in many countries worldwide, including Canada and Israel. Sesame oil products are just as allergenic as the raw seeds and may even cause life-threatening breathing problems and shock, or anaphylaxis. Although vegetable oil is actually a blend of many different oils, most of the source oils are low allergy risks. People who have highly sensitive allergies to soy or to seed products like sunflower or safflower should be cautious when using vegetable oils that do not list ingredients or sources.