The Difference Between Cooking Oils

So many oils, so many options.

When it comes to choosing oils to cook with it helps to know how different oils react to heat, and how this affects their use in the kitchen.

What is a cold pressed oil?

Cold-pressed oils such as extra virgin olive oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil and cold pressed coconut oil are made without the use of chemicals or heat to extract the oil from seeds or nuts. 

Oils such as soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, and safflower use high heat and solvents to extract the oil from the seeds. This processing can damage the oil and transform the fatty acids into trans fat. The high omega 6 content can also unbalance the ratio of omega 6 - omega 3 that is vital for good health.

Knowing which oils are cold pressed helps to understand how they are best used in the kitchen, as it is an indicator of how they will react to heat.

Generally, cold pressed oils are richer in flavour and contain more of the nutrition from their sources. The majority of these oils contain unsaturated fats which are likely to degrade when heated. For this reason they are best used drizzled over the finished product. 

Cooking with oils

Oils have low, medium or high smoke points, which is the temperature at which oil starts to smoke. Low smoke point oils (such as cold pressed oils) handle heat poorly and are best used for salad dressings, marinades and dips. Examples of low smoke point oils are walnut, flaxseed oil, extra virgin olive oil.

Medium smoke point oils such as olive oil, canola oil, refined coconut oil and grape-seed oil  are good for sautéing, sauce making, stir frying and oven baking.

High smoke point oils are great for searing, browning and panfrying and include safflower oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil and peanut oil. 

Happy Cooking!