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Cooking Oils 101

Abundance of choice


When it comes to choosing oils for your pantry, there are a number of healthy types of cooking oil options that you can add to your repetoire.

There is no oil shortage on the shelves of your local grocery store. But, when it comes to choosing oils for your pantry, the selection can seem overwhelming. Which to choose?

The method in which the oil is extracted–either chemically or mechanically–plays a role in how healthy it is. While chemical (or solvent) extraction is the most common and cost effective, it utilizes high heat and a series of chemical processes (including exposure to hexane gas) to remove and refine the oil.

Mechanical extraction, also called “cold pressed” or “expeller pressed” does not involve heat or chemicals. The oil is extracted using a hydraulic press and while it is more expensive, it preserves the natural flavour of the oil.

Some other points to consider when choosing oils include:

  • Recommended uses
  • Smoke point (the temperature at which a cooking fat or oil begins to break down)
  • Health benefits
  • Storage
  • When it comes to healthy cooking oils, the variety of options provides a bounty of choice. Bon app?t!

Peanut Oil

  • Uses: used for frying, cooking, and salad dressings
  • Smoke point: 450 F (232 C)
  • Oil tip: A pale yellow refined oil, peanut oil has a subtle scent and flavour made from pressed, steam-cooked peanuts.
  • Storage: cool dark place, indefinitely

Grapeseed Oil

  • Uses: salad dressings, marinades, deep frying, flavoured oils, and baking
  • Smoke point: 420 F (215 C); can be safely used to cook at high temperatures
  • Oil tip: This oil is often used as an ingredient in salad dressings or as a base for infusing or flavouring with garlic, rosemary, or other herbs and spices.
  • Storage: refrigerated, up to six months

Sesame Oil

  • Uses: heavy, nutty flavour; should be used in small amounts so as not to overpower a dish with its extreme taste; best used in cold applications due to its lower smoke point
  • Smoke point: 400 F (204 C)
  • Oil tip: Light sesame oil has a nutty, rich distinctive flavour. It is suitable for frying. Dark sesame oil has a stronger flavour and so should only be used in small amounts; dark sesame oil is not suitable for cooking.
  • Storage: refrigerated, unrefined up to six months, refined up to a year

Almond Oil

  • Uses: used to saute and stir-fry oriental foods
  • Smoke point: 420 F (215 C)
  • Oil tip: This oil presents a subtle toasted almond aroma and flavour.
  • Storage: refrigerated, for several months

Olive Oil

  • Uses: flavourful oil ideal for salad dressing, sauteing vegetables, and for grilling
  • Smoke point: 410 F (210 C); doesn’t degrade as quickly as many other oils do with repeated high heating
  • Oil tip: Select “extra-virgin" derived from the first pressing of the olive; the less pulverized and processed the grape, the better it is for you. Olive oil labelled “extra light” is the most processed and least flavourful of all types.
  • Storage: room temperature away from light and heat; will keep longer if refrigerated

Macadamia Nut Oil

  • Uses: delicious, light flavour; suitable for dishes that include fish, chicken, vegetables, baked goods, and salad dressings
  • Smoke point: 410 F (210 C)
  • Oil tip:excellent frying oil
  • Storage: unrefrigerated, up to two years

Canola Oil

  • Uses: multifunctional oil with a neutral taste and light texture; suitable for both cooking and baking
  • Smoke point: 468 F (242 C)
  • Oil tip: Choose organic cold-pressed options as the canola crop (extracted from rapeseed) tends to be heavily sprayed.
  • Storage: refrigerated, up to nine months

Walnut Oil

  • Uses: light-coloured and delicate in flavour with a nutty quality; used primarily as an ingredient in cold dishes such as salad dressings
  • Smoke point: 400 F (204 C)
  • Oil tip: Do not use in high-temperature cooking, as heating can remove some of the oil’s flavour and produce a slight bitterness. Antioxidants present in the oil are easily destroyed with cooking.
  • Storage: refrigerated, up to six months


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