Which oil is your go-to when cooking? You may be surprised to learn some misconceptions about cooking with oil—especially when it comes to an oil’s smoke point. Read our rundown of the different oils and their smoke points, and then choose the best option for your next dish.
The Healthiest Oils
Chefs are turning to organic extra virgin olive oil for good reason: It’s one of the healthiest oil choices available. (Be sure to see the section below that discusses smoke point when cooking with extra virgin olive oil.) Healthy cooking oils contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, the types of fats that are good for your heart and help control your blood sugar. Remember, like anything, these fats are only healthful in moderation.
Skip Canola Oil
Canola oil is a pantry staple in many U.S. homes, but it really shouldn’t be your first choice oil for cooking and baking. This oil, which actually comes from the rapeseed, goes through heavy processing and refinement, including high heat, chemicals and deodorizers which can transform its Omega-3 fatty acids into trans fatty acids. It’s also made from one of the top genetically modified crops in the country. To learn more about this oil, read: Should You Stop Buying Canola Oil?
What About Coconut Oil?
Many Americans don’t think about coconut oil when it comes to cooking, but it’s a health-conscious choice. Although it’s high in saturated fats, these fats occur naturally and aren’t created into a saturated state through hydrogenation, like other less healthy options. Studies show coconut oil can amp up the body’s immune system, promote healthy thyroid function and blood sugar levels and reduce levels of bad cholesterol, called LDL. Coconut oil is also stable enough to resist mild heat-induced damage and many studies show it may promote heart health, improve thyroid function and even help with weight loss.
Remember the Smoke Point
Oils have different smoke or flash points, which is the temperature that the oil will begin to smoke at—this can produce toxic fumes and harmful free radicals. Although extra virgin olive oil is a healthy choice for low to medium temperature cooking, it’s not a good choice for high temperature cooking. Use virgin olive oil or extra light olive oil for high heat.
Coconut oil has a high smoke point of 350 degrees and does well for low to medium temperature cooking. Avocado oil holds the highest smoke point, at 520 degrees. Avocado oil is excellent for searing meat or using in the wok due to its ability to withstand high heat.