Oil is the ingredient that ties many dishes together, especially anything sauteed, fried or roasted or in vinaigrettes. But use with caution.
The temperature at which each oil stops heating and starts smoking, which degrades flavor and releases harmful compounds, is different, and often disputed. And all oils are fats with high caloric content so they should be used sparingly.
Here are some pointers for squeezing all the nutritional and culinary value from the healthiest cooking oils.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Do: Use it in vinaigrettes and as a dipping or finishing oil. It can be drizzled over vegetables, fruits, salads and just about anything else. It’s well-known for its healthy monounsaturated fats.
Don’t: Use it for high-heat cooking. It has a smoke point of around 325 degrees, so can be used for lower heat. Higher heat does affect the taste of EVOO, but it is more resistant to oxidation, which releases the bad stuff.
Do: Use it for baking, stir-frying, roasting and other high-heat processes, as well as vinaigrettes and dips. It’s high in oleic acid and antioxidants, and its high smoke point of around 520 degrees makes it versatile.
Don’t: Refrigerate it. Its high monounsaturated fat content means it can handle the higher temps of the cool, dark cabinet you should be storing most cooking oils in.
Do: Another good utility player, this oil smokes at around 450 degrees so it’s perfect for searing and sauteing, along with frying. Its polyunsaturated fats and vitamin E boost heart, skin and brain health.
Don’t: Let it heat at or over its smoke point for long periods of time, as it tends to break down more quickly than olive oil at its limit.
Do: Use in salad dressings or as a finishing oil on top of roasted vegetables and soups. It has beneficial polyunsaturated fats, including alpha-linolenic acid — an anti-inflammatory omega-3.
Don’t: It’s got a smoke point around 320 degrees like olive oil, so it’s OK for medium-heat cooking but needs to be used with caution for higher-heat applications.