Which Is the Right Oil for Baking, Frying and More?
Last Updated: Feb 15, 2017
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You probably keep a few bottles of cooking oil in your kitchen, but are you using the right one? With dozens of types lining supermarket shelves, selecting oil can be confusing, even for the most basic dishes. Whichever oil you prefer, follow these two rules: First, opt for those high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats; they lower cholesterol and protect the heart. Second, know the oil’s smoke point — the temperature at which an oil starts to erode, lose its nutritional benefits and taste funny. Here’s how to choose the right oil for the job.
THE BEST OIL FOR VINAIGRETTE DRESSING: GRAPESEED
You probably reach for olive oil when mixing your salad dressing, but grapeseed oil is also a solid base for vinaigrette. Its neutral flavor won’t overpower a salad and allows herbs and seasonings to take center stage. Grapeseed extract also contains antioxidants that help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and, according to research published in the Journal of Nutrition, may reduce the growth of certain types of cancer cells.
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THE BEST OIL FOR SAUTEING: CANOLA
When you’re sauteing (flipping food quickly over medium heat with a small amount of fat), oil with a medium smoke point, such as canola oil, is ideal. You may have heard rumors that canola oil isn’t safe to consume, but the health benefits have long been misunderstood, according to experts from the University of Berkeley, California. Canola oil contains mostly monounsaturated fats and has the least saturated fat compared to all other vegetable oils. Just remember to buy organic, as most of the canola oil in the U.S. is genetically modified.
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THE BEST OIL FOR TOPPING OFF A MEAL: WALNUT
Walnut oil doesn’t do well when heated due to its low smoke point. It does, however, shine as “finishing oil,” adding a rich, nutty flavor to cooked pasta or fish. Walnuts are also heart-healthy; they’re packed with omega-3 essential fatty acids, which lower the risk of heart disease and blood clots, and they contain satiating monounsaturated fats.
THE BEST OIL FOR BAKING: COCONUT
Coconut oil gets lots of hype for being multitalented — it’s a hair mask, skin moisturizer, cooking ingredient and even a deodorant. But one of its most basic functions is a baking ingredient, particularly as an alternative to butter. Coconut oil contains heart-healthy “good” cholesterol and has an anti-aging effect due to high levels of antioxidants. When baked with coconut oil, treats have a slightly tropical flavor, so buy the refined version if that’s not your thing.
THE BEST OIL FOR FRYING: OLIVE
Olive oil is likely a staple in your kitchen pantry, and for good reason. People who consume the stuff are more protected against stroke, according to a study published in the journal Neurology. In addition, research published in the journal PLOS ONE showed a link between the fatty acids in olive oil and reduced risk for depression. Its smoke point is higher than typical frying temperatures, so it’s perfect for serious heat and it produces a tasty crust on food, protecting its natural flavor.
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THE BEST OIL FOR GRILLING: SAFFLOWER
If you like your burgers, pork chops and salmon with a smoky, charred edge, grilling with safflower oil is the way to go. Safflower oil (a relative of sunflower oil) has a scorching-high smoke point, so it’s safe to use over an open fire. The American Heart Association dubbed it one of the healthiest cooking oils.
THE BEST OIL TO ADD TO YOUR SMOOTHIE: MCT
The idea of drinking oil sounds odd but it’s a healthy way to boost the quality of your smoothie or even coffee. People are buzzing about the slimming benefits of MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides), a palm and coconut oil extract that the body processes quickly so it doesn’t store as fat. Per the cardiology journal Open Heart BMJ, the oil boosts brain function in older adults. And because it’s odorless and tasteless, it’s the perfect pairing with your morning drink.
THE BEST OIL FOR PAN-ROASTING: AVOCADO
Avocado oil is nutty, buttery and heart-healthy due to high amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It’s also a great source of vitamin E. One study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that when drizzled over salad it helped the body absorb nutrients. Avocado oil has one of the highest smoke point of all other oils, so it’s genius for pan-roasting — a cooking method that gives meat a crusty, browned outside and a soft, juicy inside.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
What is your favorite oil for cooking? Do you have any uses for healthy oils to share with fellow readers? What is your favorite recipe involving healthy oils? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
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