Choosing which oils are best for cooking, frying, and sautéing, and knowing when to use them can be confusing. For your convenience, we’ve included a handy guide to choosing which oils are best for all your culinary needs.
When you are in the grocery store, you might feel slightly overwhelmed by an entire aisle dedicated to a variety of oil. Educating yourself on what kind of oil to buy and when to use it is important to healthy eating habits and the best possible flavors. It can also help you avoid your smoke alarm going off while you're cooking.
What Oil to Avoid
The most common and conventionally used oils are solvent extracted, however, this is not usually noted on the bottle. Solvent extracted means that a “solvent,” usually hexane, is used to extract the oil and is then heated up to 500 degrees. Hexane is a byproduct from gasoline production. Hexane residue can remain in the oil produced using this method. Oil produced using this method often tastes bland and has minimal nutritional value. Choosing organic oil is a great way to avoid GMOs and hexane extraction, as these are banned in organic oil production.
When buying oil, be on the lookout for bottles labeled as cold pressed. Oil manufactured this way is much healthier and tastes better, but is more expensive. This is because less oil is produced in comparison to solvent extraction. Cold pressed oil means that the oil was mechanically extracted with a screw press and kept at temperatures below 120°F. While cold pressed oils are regulated in Europe, they are not well regulated in the U.S so it is important to research the brands you are purchasing ahead of time.
Another important component of oil is understanding the “smoke point”. This is the point at which oil starts to smoke. Different oils have different smoke points, making some oils better to use cold rather than for baking or stir-fries. Overheating oil can have serious negative health impacts. When oil starts to smoke it means that it is decomposing in the heat and all of the benefits of the oil being used are turned into free radicals, which are potentially carcinogenic.
Refined & Unrefined Oils
There are both refined and unrefined oils. Refined oils typically have a higher smoke point but fewer nutrients and less flavor than unrefined oils. When purchasing refined oils be sure to choose brands that use a lower temperature and natural agents during the refining process. Typically, refined oils are better for cooking at high temperatures while unrefined oils are best used raw or for cooking at lower temperatures.
Below are some of the best cold pressed oils and how to use them:
Cold Pressed Coconut Oil
- Smoke Point: 350 F (unrefined or virgin)/450 F (refined)
- Refined coconut oil is ideal for sautéing, stir-frying, baking, and using in recipes where you do not want a coconut flavor as it has a more neutral taste
- Both can be used as a moisturizer on the body and face!
- Unrefined is great in place of butter on toast, or for low—medium temperature cooking such as stir-frys
Cold Pressed Olive Oil
- Smoke point: 320 F
- Choose extra virgin (unrefined) for dressings salad dressings, drizzling over finished dishes, marinating kale, and dipping bread
- Choose virgin (also unrefined) if using for cooking purposes
Cold pressed Avocado Oil
- Smoke Point: 520 F
- Avocado oil has the highest smoke point of any plant oil
- Use it for roasting, frying, stir-frying, baking and sautéing.
- It has a buttery, grassy taste
Cold Pressed Sesame Oil
- Smoke Point: 350 (unrefined)/450 F (semi refined)
- May also be referred to as dark (unrefined) and light (semi-refined)
- Adds an Asian flavor
- Semi-refined sesame oil is great for roasting, broiling, sautéing, and high heat stir-fry
- Unrefined sesame oil can be used to lightly sauté or stir fry, drizzled on veggies or rice, or to create an Asian sauce/dressing
Now that you have just a little more knowledge when it comes to stocking oils at home, keep a few on hand and rotate them on a regular basis. When you are using oils at home, you are in control; you know the quality and can adjust the quantity as desired.
Asian Dressing Recipe
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 inch peeled diced ginger
- 1 teaspoon Sunwarrior Harvest Turmeric powder
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons agave
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- ½ cup cold pressed olive oil
Mix all ingredients together in a shaker bottle, and shake vigorously for two minutes. Check the mix to make sure everything is blended appropriately. If not, close the lid and shake for another couple of minutes. Drizzle over your favorite Asian-styled salad or rice and enjoy!