Light/Regular Olive Oil
“Light/Regular” olive oil is made by crushing olives into a paste and then extracting the excess water from the mixture. Lighter olive oil is then treated with chemical solvents to neutralise the flavour. It is lighter in taste and colour compared to extra-virgin olive oil but contains the same amount of calories. The smoke point of “light” olive oil is around 200-243 degrees Celsius. This makes it ideal for high-heat cooking. It can also be used in vinaigrettes to add more flavour.
BEST FOR: Frying, sautéing, etc.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is similar to “light” olive oil but is not refined with chemicals. The flavour is more robust and can bring a multitude of different characteristics depending on the olive’s place of origin. The smoke point is usually between 165 and 190 degrees Celsius, meaning it isn’t ideal for cooking. Extra virgin olive oil is, however, versatile and can be used as a dipping sauce for fresh bread, a topper to salads, or even churned into a delicious ice cream flavour.
BEST FOR: Drizzles, dips, dressings, etc.
Sesame oil is used frequently in Asian, Middle Eastern, and African cuisines. Sesame oil has a nutty aroma but a somewhat neutral flavour; yet the oil itself is versatile and can be used for sautés, roasts and more. Smoked sesame oil holds the nutty taste more so than regular sesame oil, and dishes it is used in will retain the nutty flavour. The smoke point of sesame oil is around 177 degrees Celsius if it is unrefined, while semirefined sesame oil is about 232 degrees Celsius.
BEST FOR: Sautéing and frying.
Coconut oil has been a popular choice throughout health fads of late. It is solid at room temperature and can be used as a great addition/substitution in baking. It can also be utilised in cooking at low to moderate heats, for instance. When it melts, it gives off a buttery, tropical scent. Coconut oil adds a unique flavour to whatever it is roasted with. The smoke point is around 120 degrees Celsius.
BEST FOR: Baking, and low to moderate roasting.
Peanut oil holds a powerful flavour and aroma. Due to its high smoke point, around 230 degrees Celsius, peanut oil is often used in high-heat cooking, like stir-frying, or even deep-frying. Peanut oil is often utilised in Asian dishes that already incorporates the nutty flavour in a variety of ways. Peanut oil goes rancid faster than most other oils, so be sure to store correctly and only buy the required amount.
BEST FOR: Stir-frying, deep-frying, Asian dishes.
Vegetable and canola oils are a common item in most kitchens. Their high smoke point (around 230 degrees Celsius) and cheaper cost make them great for deep-frying. Their flavours are neutral and do not add any lasting tastes. Vegetable oil is often a combination of several different refined oils. It is suitable for high-heat sautéing, as well. These oils, however, are not as ‘healthy’ as many of the other oils.
BEST FOR: Deep-frying, high-heat sautéing and frying.
Grapeseed oil has a high smoke point, around 215 degrees Celsius, but also does not separate at lower temperatures. Grapeseed is liked by chefs, as it lets other flavours come through in the cooking, like speciality oils or herbs. In recent years, Grapeseed has become a popular choice because of its alleged health benefits. Grapeseed oil is supposedly high in Vitamin E and oleic acid, two key ingredients in reducing the risk of a stroke. On top of that, it is believed that grapeseed oil curbs hunger.
BEST FOR: Making sauces, especially mayonnaise, good in baking, too.
Sunflower oil offers similar qualities as the vegetable/canola oil but presents itself as a slightly healthier option. It has a high smoke point, around 220 to 250 degrees Celsius, making it great for high-heat sautéing and searing. Sunflower seed oil does tend to go rancid rather quickly, so the need to buy correct quantities makes this oil harder to work around. Sunflower oil is best utilised in similar ways to vegetable oil, like frying, baking and roasting.
BEST FOR: Frying, sautéing, roasting and baking.
Avocado had a buttery flavour and a high content of monounsaturated fats. It has an extremely high smoke point, around 265 degrees Celsius, making it optimal for extreme-heat cooking. Having said that, avocado oil is a versatile oil and can be used effectively as a drizzle or garnish. Avocado oil is excellent for cooking fried eggs and stir-fry.
BEST FOR: Sautéing, roasting, searing, drizzles, etc.
Palm oil is semi-solid at room temperature and is a good substitution as trans fat in baking. It is, however, an efficient frying oil with a smoke point around 235 degrees Celsius. Palm oil is saturated fat, and is made from the oil palm tree, similar to, but not the same as palm kernel oil, which is instead made from the seeds of the same plant.
BEST FOR: Baking, and frying.
Hemp Seed Oil
Hemp seed oil is gaining popularity in New Zealand as of late and is great as an addition to a salad, soup, or grain bowl. Hemp seed oil is generally too sensitive to be heated, so is best used raw. Hemp seed oil does not have an overpowering taste, but it does have flavour nonetheless. It has an earthy, nutty flavour, and will add an array of nutrients to any dish.
BEST FOR: Raw cooking, i.e., salad dressings, smoothies, sandwich spreads, sauces, soups, grain bowls, etc.
Flaxseed oil contains large doses of omega-3 fatty acids and is an excellent addition to a variety of dishes. Much like hemp seed oil, it adds a nutritious boost to smoothies, salad dressings, dips and sauces; it has a low smoke point, around 105 degrees Celsius, making it inefficient for most cooking. Flaxseed oil does, however, present itself as an attractive topping to food once it has been grilled. Not only can flaxseed oil be used as a topper, but flaxseed oil in baking is also a good way of enriching baked goods.
BEST FOR: Same as hemp seed oil; raw cooking, including, salad dressings, smoothies, sandwich spreads, sauces, soups, grain bowls, etc.