Whether you’re sautéeing onions, baking cupcakes, or deep-frying a turkey, you’re going to need cooking oil. But how do you determine which one? Aside from the cost, there are other traits to consider, including the oil’s flavor profile and smoke point—the temperature at which it visibly forms smoke. Fortunately, we ran through a long list of cooking oils to determine the four types of cooking oil all home cooks should have stocked their pantries. Olive OilProduction ProcessUsing an ancient Greek technique, whole olives are pressed to create this healthy, versatile oil.Smoke Point: 400–468 degrees FlavorOlive oils are available in a wide range flavors, including chipotle and chocolate. You can dip bread in the most potent iterations and experiment with them as salad dressings. For everyday cooking, however, it’s best to seek out a mild olive oil.Best UsesSalad dressings and dipsSautéed, seared, fried, and stir-fried dishesOven-broiled and roasted vegetablesWorst UsesBaked goodsDeep-fried dishesTry ThisToss broccoli in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roast it in the oven for 25 minutes. A+ AlternatesSafflower and sunflower oils have a slightly milder taste than olive oil, but thanks to their similar smoke points, the oils can be used interchangeably.Canola OilProduction ProcessCanola oil proves names can be deceiving, as it is actually made from a modern variety of the ancient rapeseed, a turnip plant.Smoke Point: Approximately 400 degreesFlavorDespite its GMO status, this oil is as bland as they come and easily disappears next to more pungent ingredients. Best UsesBaked goodsSautéed, deep-fried, and roasted foodsBiodieselWorst UseSeasoningsTry ThisCraft a refreshing vinaigrette by whisking canola oil with lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper.A+ AlternatesOther vegetable oils, such as corn oil, are similarly mild.Coconut OilProduction ProcessLoaded with lauric acid, this household staple is extracted from coconut meat.Smoke Point: 350 degreesFlavorThe mild oil is somewhat of a chameleon—although it adds complexity to sweet and savory dishes, it disappears completely when paired with stronger flavors.Best UsesBaked goods, especially cookies, cakes, or browniesSautéed and stir-fried Asian cuisineWorst UsesSalad dressings, drizzles, and other room-temperature recipes, which solidify the oilTry ThisAdd another layer to the taste of french toast by frying it in coconut oil.A+ AlternatesAvocado oil’s buttery flavor makes it a good substitute for coconut oil.Unsalted ButterProduction ProcessEssentially milk fat, butter is made from the cooled cream of whole milk.Smoke Point: Approximately 350 degrees FlavorUS butter consumption is the highest its been since the 1970s, thanks to its rich, creamy taste and lack of trans fats.Best UsesCoffee condimentSpread on toastBaked goodsWorst UseDeep-fried dishesTry ThisTake a bite from a stick to add shine to your chompers.A+ AlternatesIt’s butter—there is no substitute. Unless you’ve got ghee, which is just clarified butter.Photos by Russ Augustine, GrouponLearn about alternative uses for cooking oils:Olive-Oil Cake Is One Baked Good It's Actually Good ForWith flavors from traditional citrus to savory rosemary, these four recipes test the limits of a versatile dessert.One Jar of Coconut Oil Equals 16 Household Staples Across Three RoomsThe super-substance helps to cook eggs just as well as it fends off diaper rash.
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