Because it is Science! Choosing the Right Oils for Cooking.

For many years, I essentially used two oils when cooking, canola and extra virgin olive oil. There were two rules: one, both oils could be used for cooking and two, do not use olive oil to bake.  Wow! I was totally behind the times.

However, we now know that philosophy is not healthy.  Why do we know this?  Because of science, of course!Walnut Oil 3

However, sometimes having more information can make things more confusing (I just want my two rules back!). So here is some essential information about cooking with oils.

1. A single oil cannot be used for all your cooking.

2. Know the smoke point of the oils you are using.

3. Use the right oil based on the temperature.

The smoke point of an oil or fat is the temperature at which it starts to break down to free fatty acids and glycerol (read: you start seeing smoke).  When oil is broken down, the result, smoke, can be extremely irritating to people and degrades the nutritional and flavor profile of the food. 

The following guide originated from the Cleveland Clinic (don’t let the “Cleveland” part of their name fool you, they are one of the best hospitals in the country 🙂 ). Feel free to print it out and post it on your fridge as a reference guide.

High smoke point
Best suited for searing, browning and deep frying:

Oil % Mono % Poly % Sat Nutrition Notes
Almond 65 28 7 Distinctive nutty flavor
Avocado 65 18 17 Sweet aroma
Hazelnut 82 11 7 Bold, strong flavor
Palm 38 10 52 High in saturated fat.
Sunflower 79 7 14 Seek out high-oleic versions, which are higher in monounsaturated fat
“Light” olive/refined olive 78 8 14 The more refined the olive oil, the better its all-purpose cooking use. “Light” refers to color

Medium-high smoke point
Best suited for baking, oven cooking or stir frying.

Oil % Mono % Poly % Sat Nutrition Notes
Canola 62 31 7 Contains low levels of omega-3
Grapeseed 17 73 10 High in omega-6
Macadamia nut 84 3 13 Bold flavor
Extra virgin olive 78 8 14 Best-pick oil
Peanut 48 34 18 Great for stir frying

Medium smoke point
Best suited for light sautéing, sauces and low-heat baking.

Oil % Mono % Poly % Sat Nutrition Notes
Corn 25 62 13 High in omega-6. High-oleic (monounsaturated fat) versions coming soon
Hemp 15 75 10 Good source of omega-3. Keep refrigerated
Pumpkinseed 32 53 15 Contains omega-3
Sesame 41 44 15 Rich, nutty flavor. Keep refrigerated
Soybean 25 60 15 High in omega-6
Walnut 24 67 9 Good source of omega-3
Coconut 6 2 92 High in saturated fat.

No-heat oils
Best used for dressings, dips or marinades. Toasted sesame, extra virgin olive and walnut oils also work well.

Oil % Mono % Poly % Sat Nutrition Notes
Flaxseed 65 28 7 Excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid,
a form of omega-3
Wheat Germ 65 18 17 Rich in omega-6. Keep refrigerated

Another way of looking at it (Courtesy of Whole Foods):

For baking: Coconut, palm, canola and high oleic safflower and sunflower oil work best (probably because they are all high in saturated fats).

For frying: Avocado, peanut, palm and sesame oil are ideal for frying.

For sautéing: Many oils are great for sautéing, including avocado, canola, coconut, grapeseed, olive, sesame and high oleic safflower and sunflower oils.

For dipping, dressings and marinades:  Flax, olive, peanut, toasted sesame or walnut oil.

Coconut Oil and Apple Cider Vinegar

Sources: Whole Foods, Cleveland Clinics

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