cooking oil

Best Cooking Oils in 2021

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Choosing the right oil

No single oil will meet most people’s needs – you need to find a range of oils that suit your culinary needs and lifestyle. So how do you choose the right oil?

Should you use olive or canola oil, or just plain vegetable oil to stir-fry your veggies? What about drizzling on your salad?

We explain which oils are best for cooking tasks, compare the fat content of common cooking oils, and explain the facts about fats and cholesterol.

You’ll usually want a neutral-tasting oil that doesn’t mask the flavor of your food for everyday cooking. Regular olive oil and canola oil are good choices.

Cold-pressed oils may be too strong in flavor and are usually more expensive.

For frying, you’ll need oil with a high smoke point. The smoke point is the temperature to which oil can be heated before it smokes and discolors.

Blended vegetable oils and canola, grapeseed, and peanut oil have high smoke points. Butter and table spreads have low smoke points, so they suit light sautéing rather than frying.

For salads, pasta, and stir-fries, you may want an oil with a distinctive flavor – most cold-pressed oils (extra-virgin olive oil, almond, and avocado) are good choices. They are also great drizzled on meat, fish, and vegetables or for dipping bread.

As a rule, nut oils are best used in cold dishes because cooking heat can destroy their delicate flavors.

Flaxseed oil (sometimes called linseed oil) shouldn’t be heated either … but it’s delicious added to smoothies or salad dressings.

Fat facts

We all love the flavor that oil brings to food. Gram for gram, however, fat contributes more kilojoules than carbohydrates or protein.

All oil is 100 percent fat; cutting back can help you stay in shape.

But for the health of your heart and arteries, it’s the type of fat that matters (see “What is cholesterol?” below).

Fats and oils are made up of fatty acids – saturated, trans, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.

All fats are made up of a mixture of these fatty acids, with one type usually predominating in each oil or fat

Types of fat

cooking oil

Saturated fat

Saturated fat raises the total amount of cholesterol – and the amount of “bad” low-density lipid (LDL) cholesterol – in your blood. Saturated fats can also promote blood clotting, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Certain cancers (breast and bowel cancer) have been linked with high intakes of saturated fat.

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Tip: Fats high in saturates are usually solid at room temperature. You’ll find saturated fat in meat, full-fat dairy products, butter, spreads, cakes, and biscuits. Palm and coconut oil are high in saturated fat too.

Trans fat

This has the same effect as saturated fat because it raises both total and LDL cholesterol. Trans fat also decreases “good” high-density lipid (HDL) cholesterol levels.

Small amounts of certain trans fats occur naturally in butter, milk, cheese, and meat. But the problematic trans fats are mostly formed when liquid oils are hydrogenated.

This is the process of adding hydrogen, which hardens fats and makes them more stable and convenient to use.

Tip: You’ll find trans fats in some table spreads, cakes, biscuits, and other processed foods. Liquid vegetable oils have negligible amounts of trans fats.

Monounsaturated fats

These are “good” fats. They lower total and LDL cholesterol and appear to have a little adverse effect on HDL cholesterol.

Avocado, canola, macadamia nut, and olive oil are good sources of monounsaturates.

Polyunsaturated fats

These are also “good” fats that have been found to lower total and LDL cholesterol. High intakes may lower HDL cholesterol. Sunflower, safflower, soya bean, and grapeseed oils are good sources of polyunsaturates.

Omega fatty acids

Omega fatty acids are polyunsaturates that are essential for health – our body can’t make them, so we need them in our diet.

Omega-6 fatty acids are more prevalent in the oils of seeds and grains, like sunflower and corn oil. Flaxseed and fish oils are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

The omega-3s found in fish oils are beneficial for many conditions, including heart disease, joint mobility, and brain and eye development.

What is cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is essential to help build the hormones and nerve cells your body needs.

But too much cholesterol may thicken the walls of your blood vessels, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

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Cholesterol mainly gets around in the blood attached to LDLs and HDLs as carriers.

LDLs are the “bad” form. If you have high levels of them in your blood, it’s likely some will be deposited as fatty streaks on your artery walls – which increases your risk of heart disease.

In contrast, HDLs help slow this process by carrying cholesterol out of the tissues and back to the liver for processing.

The liver makes most of the cholesterol your body needs. We also get cholesterol from eating animal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy products.

However, LDL-cholesterol levels are linked more strongly to your intake of saturated and trans fats than to your intake of cholesterol-containing foods.

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So watch out for “low” or “no” cholesterol foods that are high in saturated or trans fats.

Monos or polys?

Health experts advise replacing saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. But which is better: mono or poly?

There’s no definitive answer. They both lower total and LDL cholesterol.

But some studies suggest that very high levels of polyunsaturated fats can, in addition to lowering the LDL cholesterol, also lower the “good” HDL cholesterol. It’s unlikely you’d eat such high levels in a normal diet.

Polyunsaturated fats appear to be more susceptible to oxidation than monounsaturates. There’s concern that oxidized oils may have bad health effects.

On the other hand … the omega-3 polyunsaturates found in fish oils appear to decrease blood clotting, which can reduce your risk of heart disease. Monounsaturates don’t have this effect.

Tip: The best advice is to replace some of the saturated fat with a mix of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and to focus on monounsaturates and omega-3s. Many vegetable oils are low in saturated fats and either high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat.

Oil lingo

Cold-pressed: The oil is extracted from the seed, fruit, or nut by mechanical pressing only. There’s little or no heat to extract more oil.

After it’s pressed, the oil just needs to be filtered, and so it tends to keep its natural flavor. You can usually tell a cold-pressed oil by its deep color, stronger flavor, and higher price.

Expeller-expressed: These oils are obtained by squeezing the seed, fruit, or nut at high pressure.

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Most oils are extracted by this method but don’t qualify as cold-pressed because the high-pressure squeezing generates heat. Expeller-pressed oils still retain most of their flavor, aroma, and color.

Refined: Most oils produced on a large scale, such as canola and sunflower, are refined. Refining involves several processes that include using heat and chemicals. Bleaching gives the oils a light color.

Deodorizing removes any aromatic oils or free fatty acids that might be left in the oil to affect flavor. Distilling removes any final material that could cause unwanted aromas.

As a general rule, more refining means less flavor and color.

Light: It’s light – but in color and taste only. Like every other oil, light oil is 100 percent fat. (If you want to cut kilojoules, useless.)

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“No cholesterol”: Don’t be impressed by no-cholesterol claims on oils. Cholesterol comes from animal products, so vegetable oils will contain virtually none anyway.

Olive oil

Olive oil has a reputation for being healthy. The health benefits are related primarily to the oil’s high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids.

But extra-virgin olive oil has an advantage over other oils. When processed correctly, it contains the highest levels of antioxidants and polyphenols.

Antioxidants have been shown to protect against heart disease and cancer. Of all antioxidants, polyphenols have the most effect.

You can pay top dollar for extra-virgin olive oil, but the best indicator of good oil is freshness and packaging.

Previously when we’ve blind-tasted olive oils, the top oils were pressed the same year as our tasting and were in dark bottles.

Best-before dates aren’t a good indicator of quality because you don’t know how old the oil is.

Extra-virgin: The highest grade of olive oil – it’s usual to pay a premium for it. Extra-virgin’s made from the first pressing of olives and has minimal processing to maintain the flavor and aroma.

As a result, it’s the olive oil with the highest levels of antioxidants. Extra-virgin can’t have more than 0.8 percent acidity and must be assessed as fault-free by an expert panel.

Virgin: Olive oil with minor imperfections and a higher acidity level.

Pure: A mix of refined and virgin oil, resulting in a milder olive taste.

Light or extra-light: Refined oil with small amounts of virgin oil added. These oils are “light” in color and taste, but they’re not “light” in fat or kilojoules.

Country of Origin

Buying extra-virgin olive oil from Italy? You need to check the labels carefully – chances are it’s not made from Italian olives at all.

Spain is the biggest producer of olives and olive oil. Italy is the second-biggest producer.

But, because the Italians are the biggest consumers of olive oil, Italy doesn’t produce enough olives to meet local demand.

A lot of the Spanish crop is exported to Italy, where it’s repackaged for sale as Italian olive oil. Other countries such as Greece and Turkey also export olives to Italy.

If a product says it’s “imported from Italy,” this gives the impression that the olives were grown in Italy. Still, it probably only means the oil was bottled there. Some products are more upfront – the label says it’s “bottled in Italy”.

If you’re looking for olive oil made with Italian olives, look for the label “Product of Italy” or “Produced and bottled in Italy”.

Pompeian 100% Grapeseed Oil, Light and Subtle Flavor, Perfect for High-Heat Cooking, Deep Frying and Baking, 68 FL. OZ.
8,335 Reviews
Pompeian 100% Grapeseed Oil, Light and Subtle Flavor, Perfect for High-Heat Cooking, Deep Frying and Baking, 68 FL. OZ.
  • GRAPESEED OIL: Pompeian imports 100% of its Grapeseed Oil from France.
  • LIGHT AND SUBTLE FLAVOR: Pompeian’s 100% Grapeseed Oil is a light, all-natural cooking oil with a high smoke point, perfect for stir-frying, deep frying and baking!
  • PERFECT FOR HIGH HEAT – With a smoke point of up to 510 degrees, our Grapeseed Oil is the perfect companion for all your recipes, whether you’re cooking, baking, frying or air frying!
  • FARMER CRAFTED: Quality from The Olive Oil People Since 1906.
  • COMMITTED TO QUALITY: Pompeian 100% Grapeseed Oil is Naturally Gluten Free and Non-Allergenic, Kosher, and Non-GMO Verified by the Non-GMO Project.
Chosen Foods Avocado Oil – Kosher, Non-GMO, Keto and Paleo Diet Friendly, for High-Heat Cooking, Frying, Baking, Homemade Sauces, Dressings and Marinades, 1 Liter
8,151 Reviews
Chosen Foods Avocado Oil – Kosher, Non-GMO, Keto and Paleo Diet Friendly, for High-Heat Cooking, Frying, Baking, Homemade Sauces, Dressings and Marinades, 1 Liter
  • YOUR COOKING COMPADRE: Chosen Foods avocado oil is the perfect cooking companion. Natural, delicious, and always made from naturally refined avocados. We’ve created a mild, cook-with-anything oil that’s wholesome, healthy, and wildly versatile
  • CLEAN EATING MADE SIMPLE: The healthy all-purpose cooking oil you've been dreaming of! A daily-use kitchen staple from cooking and baking, to dressings and marinades. High smoke point makes avocado oil great for sautéing and flame grilling
  • HEALTHY LIFESTYLE: All-purpose cooking oil with a conscience. Our avocado oil is all natural, kosher, wholesome, and naturally delicious for a paleo, keto, clean-eating lifestyle. Certified non-GMO by the Non-GMO Project
  • OUR AVOCADOS: At Chosen Foods we are all-in on avocados! A wholesome, delicious superfood. Avocados are one of the world’s most nourishing nutrition-packed foods, thanks to its high levels of fiber, antioxidants and brain-boosting monosaturated fats
  • TASTE THE DIFFERENCE: Avocado oil is the star of our story. Try our avocado oil sprays, and our full range of avocado-oil based products
Pompeian Classic Olive Oil, Mild Flavor, Perfect for Roasting and Sauteing, Naturally Gluten Free, Non-Allergenic, Non-GMO, 32 FL. OZ., Single Bottle
2,538 Reviews
Pompeian Classic Olive Oil, Mild Flavor, Perfect for Roasting and Sauteing, Naturally Gluten Free, Non-Allergenic, Non-GMO, 32 FL. OZ., Single Bottle
  • MILD TASTE OLIVE OIL: Expertly crafted by The Olive Oil People, this mild olive oil is made from olives grown and nurtured by our family of farmers.
  • MILD FLAVOR: Pompeian Olive Oils are ideal for any meal that starts with a sauté and ends with a drizzle. With its mild taste, Pompeian Mild Taste Olive Oil is perfect for roasting and sautéing!
  • 100% FARMER CRAFTED: Quality from The Olive Oil People since 1906.
  • A GREAT SUBSTITUTE FOR BUTTER: Pompeian Mild Taste Olive Oil is a healthy, simple swap for butter, margarine and vegetable oil, that won’t compromise the taste of your favorite dishes and foods.
  • COMMITTED TO QUALITY: Pompeian Mild Taste Olive Oil is Naturally Gluten Free and Non-Allergenic, Kosher, Non-GMO Verified by the Non-GMO Project and Certified for Authenticity by the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA).
Macadamia Nut Oil | 3 x 16 oz Bottles | Premium Cold Pressed | 100% Pure Virgin | Food Grade | Vegetarian, Non-GMO, Gluten Free | Safe for Cooking, Great for Hair and Skin | by Carlyle
641 Reviews
Macadamia Nut Oil | 3 x 16 oz Bottles | Premium Cold Pressed | 100% Pure Virgin | Food Grade | Vegetarian, Non-GMO, Gluten Free | Safe for Cooking, Great for Hair and Skin | by Carlyle
  • Vegetarian, Non-GMO, Gluten Free; No Wheat, Yeast, Milk, Lactose, Soy, Artificial Color
  • 3 Bottles of Macadamia Nut Oil 16 fluid ounces (473 mL) made from 100% Pure Virgin Macadamia Nut Oil
  • A food grade, edible liquid oil for cooking; can eat; high smoke point of 410 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Can be used topically for treatment of hair, face, and skin care; for cosmetic uses; non greasy
  • Naturally contains palmitic acid, palmitoleic acid, stearic acid, and oleic acid
Mantova Ghee Oil, 100% Pure Cooking Oil Spray, Omega-3, perfect for Keto snacks, baking, grilling, or cooking, our oil dispenser bottle lets you spray, drip, or stream with no waste, 5 oz
  • Our Mantova Ghee Oil Spray bottle dispenser preserves all the genuine qualities of 100% natural blend of ghee butter, olive oil, and avocado oil with nothing else: no fillers, additives, or preservatives. Perfect for Keto, vegetarian, low-carb, or gluten-free diets.
  • Promotes healthy living and eating: our all-natural ghee oil spray is non-GMO, gluten-free, cholesterol free, and rich with natural healthy fats, Omega-3, Vitamin E, oleic acid, and antioxidants.
  • Our “bag in bottle” system helps you spray lightly and evenly without any propellants, aerosols, or additives
  • Great for everyday use with eggs, omelets, quesadillas, salads, and hot sandwiches; high smoking point is perfect for frying, caramelizing, and sautéing foods. Spray onto finished foods for a beautiful look and a great taste.
  • Mantova offers oil sprays for cooking in several exciting flavors for adding to salad dressings, pasta salads, pasta sauces, breads, vegetables, and meats: Avocado, Coconut, Flaxseed, Grapeseed, Rice, Toasted Sesame, and Walnut.

Our advice

Choose an oil that’s low in saturated and trans fat. But remember that all oil is 100 percent fat, so use as little as possible.

If you’re heavy-handed with your oil, measure it with a spoon. Or try a non-stick oil spray – the amount that comes out in a spray is small, and so it’s easier to useless.

Heat and light can affect oil quality. Try to avoid oils that have been displayed in a shop window or under fluorescent lights.

Green or dark bottles – or tins – provide better protection from the light. Store your oil in a cool dark place, tightly stoppered.

Oils don’t improve with age. So buy the freshest oil possible. Look for a pressed-on date if there is one: best-before dates aren’t always a good indicator of quality because you don’t know how old the oil is.

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Last update on 2021-10-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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