Broadly speaking, when you're deciding what cooking oil to use for what purpose, we're looking at three things: smoke point, flavour, and (let's be truthful) price. But there's still so much information out there about which oils we should be using for different purposes, so to help you along we wrote up this Life Made Easy primer.
Best Oils to Use Raw
Use for: salad dressings, finishing oil for drizzling on pasta, meats.
Our picks: extra virgin olive oil, most nut oils such as walnut or hazelnut, and flaxseed oils
Here we're talking about cold-pressed, unfiltered oils, that have a pronounced flavour and generally have a rich colour to them. They're usually more expensive too, so you want to use these in smaller amounts in their most natural state, where you can actually taste them.
You'll find the good quality oils in darker glass bottles or metal containers for a reason: they tend to break down when exposed to light and heat.
Best Oils for Everyday Cooking
Use for: light saute, pan frying
Our picks: regular olive oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil
High smoke point: When you heat up oil, each type has a critical point where it starts to degrade or break down and literally smoke. This is when unhealthy compounds are created, not to mention safety hazards (flash fires!) result along with an unpleasant, burnt or overcooked taste. You want your oils to have a way lower smoke point than the temperatures you'll be cooking.
These are generally more neutral-tasting (coconut oil being the exception, which is great when making curries). They're usually lighter in colour, in clear glass bottles.
Best Oils for Deep Frying
Our picks: canola oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil
These have the highest smoke points; we generally deep fry at 350F, and these oils have smoke point of around 450F.
These oils are good because of their neutral flavour and cost. Usually you need quite a bit of oil to deep fry, and these are fairly economical choices. (Yes you can deep fry with regular olive oil, but it can get very expensive)!