At some point in the process of making a meal, most of us use cooking oil. Many standard recipes call for "vegetable oil" or simply "oil," but increasingly, cooks are branching out from the usual vegetable oil (which is generally soybean oil) to other types. Want to give some of the other oils a try but not sure which one works best for which recipe? Here's the rundown on five popular cooking oils.
This one's almost as standard as vegetable oil, but most of us don't know that canola is a flowering plant whose seeds are about 45% oil. Canola is low in saturated fat and is lauded as heart-healthy. It's quite versatile, too -- it works well for baking, sautéeing meat and vegetables, deep frying, making salad dressings, and grilling. (Source: CanolaInfo.org)
Coconut oil has been used for centuries as a standard cooking oil in nations near the tropics, but has only become popular in the United States over the past several years as natural food proponents have celebrated its health benefits. Coconut oil is said to increase metabolism and decrease chances of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. (Source: Dr. Joseph Mercola) It works well for cooking and baking alike, and if it's been processed for cooking, it is tasteless just like most standard cooking oils (so you don't have to worry about your sautéed onions tasting like coconuts).
Unlike canola and coconut, olive oil does carry with it a light, though distinctive, flavor. It is the perfect choice for salad dressings and can be substituted for vegetable oil in most recipes. For baking, however (especially desserts), it is usually best to choose one of the other oils.
Peanut oil works well for deep-frying and often carries a slight flavor. However, peanut oil does not absorb the flavors of foods cooked in it, meaning that you can fry a chicken and donuts in the same oil and neither will taste like the other. Peanut can be used for baking and sautéeing as well. Highly refined peanut oil has been proven not to spark allergic reactions in those with peanut allergies, as the allergens have been removed in the refining process. (Source: The Peanut Institute)
Oil from the safflower, from the same family as the sunflower, can be used for cooking and is lower in saturated fat than olive oil. Like sunflower oil, safflower oil is virtually flavorless and colorless. It works well for frying, baking, sautéeing, and cooking.
Your Turn: What is your go to oil when cooking?