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Heads Up, You're Using the Wrong Cooking Oils

Don't cry over spilt oil.

cooking oil

Not all cooking oils are the same, yet many use what they have on hand interchangeably. This is a mistake.

"I think people, mostly used canola or corn oil without exploring other alternatives," Antoine Camin, the Michelin-starred executive chef of New York's La Goulue, says.

From taste to smoke point, certain tasks call for a specific type of oil. To demystify the world of cooking oils, these are how each type of common cooking oils compare.

Avocado Oil

Best uses: Frying, grilling, searing

Smoke point: 520°F

Avocado oil is, expectedly, made from avocado pulp, or the meat of the fruit. Like the fruit, avocado oil has a buttery flavor with a rich texture. With its high smoke point, avocado oil works well for high-heat tasks, but it's also a great multipurpose cooking oil, easily subbed in for the ubiquitous olive oil. It's also high in oleic acid, a heart-healthy fat with numerous health benefits.

Canola Oil/Corn Oil/Vegetable Oil

Best uses: All types of cooking

Smoke point: Up to 450°F

Used interchangeably, these oils taste neutral, as in they taste like nothing, and they're cheap. If you want something perfectly crispy or deeply browned, reach for any of these.

"We use canola oil for our French fries that we create from scratch," Camin says. "It requires lots of oil. Canola oil is low in saturated fat and has a high proportion of monosaturated fat. It is a ‘healthier’ choice in cooking oils when using a large quantity of oil."

Coconut Oil

Best uses: Sautéing, roasting and baking

Smoke point: 350°F

Everyone seems to be in on the coconut oil trend from skincare to cooking. Coconut oil comes as a solid at room temperature and melts down easier than butter. It's a bit pricey, but there are some health benefits to eating with it — it can help burn fat, reduce the risk of heart disease and raise good cholesterol levels. Coconut oil does not taste overtly like coconut, but it does give off its scent when it heats up.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Best uses: Finishing, dressings, vinaigrettes

Smoke point: 450°F

Extra-virgin olive oil, or EVOO, is the unrefined oil that comes directly after pressing olives. It's made sans heat and chemicals, so it's pricier than its processed counterpart. Feel free to cook with extra-virgin olive oil, but it's meant to be used as a finishing oil to impart a fruity, earthy flavor.


Best uses: Anything you would use butter for

Smoke point: 450°F

Ghee is a clarified butter, which means it's butter that's had all the water boiled out of it. Originating from India, ghee lacks the milk protein of butter so it's suitable for those who are lactose intolerant. The cooking oil is practically a solid, which makes it nice to spread on toast. Some may say it tastes more like butter than butter.

Grapeseed Oil

Best uses: Dressings, vinaigrettes, sautéing, all-purpose

Smoke point: 400°F

"[People] should definitely keep grapeseed oil on hand," Camin says. "It is healthy and has a nice flavor." The oil is derived from the seeds of grapes, and it's slightly green in color. It's fairly neutral in flavor, somewhat resembling the taste of extra virgin olive oil. Grapeseed oil is also packed with omega-6 fatty acids, which can be good for your heart when consumed in moderation.

Olive Oil

Best uses: Dressings, sautéing, roasting

Smoke point: 465°F

Less flavorful than extra virgin olive oil, and slightly cheaper, olive oil is good for everything in which you would use EVOO. Olive oil is treated to taste more neutral than its unadulterated version, but it's good for helping to bring out the flavors of herbs and other aromatics.

Peanut Oil

Best uses: All types of frying

Smoke point: 450°F

Fast food burger restaurant Five Guys is notorious for its use of peanut oil. The chain's connection with peanut oil runs so deep, customers can eat an unlimited supply of peanuts while they wait for their meal. Its high smoke point makes it an ideal oil for all sorts of fried dishes. Use it to accentuate dishes that already contain peanuts, or use it to add a sweet nutty flavor. And if you have a nut allergy, stay away.

Sesame Oil

Best uses: Sautéing and topping

Smoke point: 410°F

Common in Asian dishes, sesame oil has a distinct nutty flavor that's both highly aromatic and flavorful. It works well for adding a sweet sesame flavor to stir-fried veggies as well as acting as a finishing oil for noodles and salads. It's also full of antioxidants, a buzzword for nutrients that fight free radicals linked to aging.

Sunflower Oil

Best uses: Searing and sautéing

Smoke point: 450°F

With a high smoke point, sunflower oil helps produce excellent sears on foods. It's very similar to vegetable oil (and the like) in terms of flavor, texture and smoke point. Besides that, sunflower is also better for your body with vitamin E, an antioxidant, and linoleic acid, known for lowering the risk of heart disease.

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