The importance of selecting the right cooking oil when cooking cannot be overstated. Whilst it may seem like an unimportant decision, it actually has a large impact on both the healthiness and flavor of the dishes we make.
But with the vast selection of cooking oils available on the market, you probably feel overwhelmed by all the options. What should you choose? Which is the best option?
In this article, we will take a closer look at different cooking oils that are at your disposal, discuss their pros and cons, and when one or the other may be more suitable.
The Basics of Cooking Oils
As discussed cooking oils come in a vast selection. Each oil has its own unique characteristics. For that reason, it’s important to understand them before you begin cooking.
For the most part, cooking oils come from various plants and seeds. This primarily includes sources such as olives, soybeans, sunflowers, or coconuts. Each source has its own distinct flavor, smoke point, and nutritional profile to the table.
The smoke point of an oil is a rather important factor when cooking. The smoke point is the temperature at which an oil begins to break down and emit smoke. This creates undesirable flavors and potentially harmful compounds. Vegetable oils are oils with a high smoke point. These can withstand higher temperatures which makes them suitable for frying and deep-frying.
On the other hand, low smoke point oils, like extra virgin olive oil, are better suited for sautéing and salad dressings.
The two categories when it comes to oils are vegetable oil and olive oil. Vegetable oil is usually a blend of oils from various plant sources. These generally have a neutral flavor and are rather versatile. This makes them a popular choice for all-purpose cooking. Olive oil is extracted solely from olives. It is known for its richness of monounsaturated fats which come with many different health benefits. Olive oil is also appreciated for its robust flavor and is popular in Mediterranean cuisine.
Benefits of Vegetable Oil
In terms of benefits, let’s begin by looking closer at vegetable oil. This is the most widely used oil in the world.
One of the key features of vegetable oil is its high smoke point. It has a high smoke point and therefore does not break down or emit unwanted smoke. This makes it a suitable choice for frying and deep-frying. For things like French fries or fried chicken, vegetable oil is the best choice.
Neutral Flavor and Wide Applicability
In terms of flavor, vegetable oil is appreciated for its neutral flavor. The oil doesn’t impact the flavor of the dishes that you cook. This makes it perfect for a wide range of recipes that you don’t want to be affected in terms of flavor. This includes recipes for food that is both savory to sweet, from baking to cooking dinners.
In terms of health, vegetable oil offers several health benefits. It’s rich in polyunsaturated fats, particularly omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential for the body. These fats are linked to reduced risk of heart disease and support healthy cell growth. At the same time, we must emphasize that vegetable oil should be consumed in moderation. Excessive consumption of omega-6 fatty acids can upset the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 in your diet.
Last but not least, vegetable oil is an affordable option for best cooking oils. It can be found in virtually any grocery store and is easily accessible.
Benefits of Olive Oil
Moving on to olive oil, where we start by looking at the benefits of this highly popular cooking oil. This oil is known for its delicate flavor and aroma. It’s widely appreciated in cooking for a wide range of reasons.
First off, olive oil is appreciated for its health benefits. It is rich in content of monounsaturated fats which are known for their heart-healthy properties. These fats have been found to help reduce bad cholesterol levels while maintaining the good cholesterol which ultimately supports cardiovascular health. In addition, olive oil contains antioxidants, particularly vitamin E. This plays an important role in protecting your body’s cells from oxidative damage.
Moreover, olive oil is also a flavor enhancer in cooking. It has a distinct flavor which can range from mild and buttery to robust and peppery (depending on the type you choose). Olive oils are available in many different types and things like the origin can also impact its flavor.
Olive oil is popular to use to drizzle over salads or to sauté vegetables.
All in all, the lovely flavor paired with its health benefits makes it a popular choice in the kitchen.
Choosing the Right Oil for Each Type of Preparation
So, as you can see, different types of oils have different pros and cons and are suitable for different usage areas. With that said, which oil should you use and when? Let’s have a look.
Frying and Deep-Frying: Vegetable Oil’s High Smoke Point
When it comes to frying or deep-frying, high heat is crucial. For that reason, you need an oil that can handle high heat and for that reason, vegetable oil is the best-suited option thanks to its high smoke point. It can withstand the high temperatures necessary to achieve the crispy exterior you are looking for when frying.
Sautéing and Salad Dressings: Olive Oil’s Rich Flavor
When it comes to sautéing and making salad dressings, olive oil is the single most popular choice. Its distinct flavor adds depth and character to your dishes. The fruity and peppery notes of olive oil add complexity to your dish and make it much more tasty and interesting.
Baking and Roasting
In regards to baking and roasting, you can choose both olive oil and vegetable oil depending on the desired flavor profile and of course, what it is you are baking. Olive oil can add a slightly nutty undertone to baked things like focaccia and brownies. At the same time, the neutral flavor of vegetable oil makes it suitable for roasting when you don’t want the oil to overshadow the primary flavors in your roast chicken or vegetables. You can choose oil as you please here, it ultimately comes down to your own preferences and desired flavor outcome.
Grilling and Marinating
Last but not least, we have grilling and marinating. Here, you can use both olive and vegetable oils. Olive oil helps add a more interesting flavor to marinades which is a great combination for meats and vegetables. On the same token, the high smoke point of vegetable oil makes it suitable for grilling in order to prevent flare-ups.