Are you cooking with the right oil?

Written by Vick Ma (APD)

Not all cooking oils are equal, some are better than others. With so many options out there, choosing the right oil can be confusing!

Then of course there are health concerns, particularly around the cooking temperature of oils. People often tell me that they would only use coconut oil in cooking because they’ve been told that it has a much higher cooking temperature compared to olive oil. Is this true? I’ll let you decide. 

Facts about oils 

Cooking oils are liquid fats derived from animal, plants, nuts and seeds. All oils are fats and have very similar energy value. Fat is an essential nutrient necessary for overall good health. It helps transport fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) around our body.

There are two types of fats in our diet, one “good” and one “bad”. Saturated and Trans fat are considered as bad fats. These increase our level of harmful LDL cholesterol, which can increase our risk of heart disease. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered as good fats. These help bring down the harmful LDL cholesterol and reduce our risk of heart disease.

All cooking oils contain different types and amounts of fat. Some plant based oils such as olive or sunflower oil contain higher amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (good) fats, whilst others such as coconut or canola oil contain higher amount of saturated (bad) fats. But remember, all oils are high in fat (even the healthier ones) so we should use this in moderation.

Oil Jargons

Before we start talking about the different types oils, I’m just going to explain a few commonly used terms:

The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which it starts to break down and lose its nutritional value. When frying or baking it is important to choose an oil with a very high smoke point.

Cold-pressed (or unrefined) oils are created using minimal amount of heat. This means they are stronger in flavour and have higher amount of antioxidants

Lite/Light/Extra light only means the oil is light in flavour or colour, not lower in kilojoules. All oils have very similar energy value.

Which oil should I choose? 

Cooking oils can be used in so many different ways such as frying, baking, sautéing, salad dressings and stir-frying. But which oil works best for each cooking method? Here’s a quick guide to help get you started.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) 

  • Contains high amount of polyphenols and beta-carotene (antioxidants)
  • Minimal amount of trans fat
  • Mainly made up of monounsaturated fats
  • Cold-pressed oil
  • Smoke point between 205ºC and 215ºC (suitable for high temperature cooking)

Best for: stir-frying, roasting, baking, sautéing, salad dressings and marinades

Avocado Oil 

  • Contains high amount of monounsaturated fat (low amount of polyunsaturated fat)
  • Full of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D and E) and some B-group vitamins
  • Ideal of high temperature cooking (smoke point up to 250 ºC)
  • Most expensive type of oil

Best for: stir-frying, roasting, baking, sautéing, pan-frying, grilling and salad dressings

Grapeseed Oil 

  • High in polyunsaturated fats
  • Great source of vitamin E
  • Extracted from seeds of grapes and has a neutral flavour
  • Ideal for high temperature cooking (smoke point up to 216 ºC)

Best for: stir-frying, roasting, baking, sautéing, salad dressings, mayonnaise and marinades

Canola Oil 

  • High in monounsaturated fats and low in saturated fat
  • Most canola oil products are refined and have minimal amount of antioxidants
  • High smoke point of around 205ºC
  • Good all-purpose cooking oil

Best for: stir-frying, sautéing, pan-frying, salad dressings and marinades

Vegetable Oil 

  • Refined plant-based oil
  • Difficult to know what it’s made out of. Could be a blend between canola and soybean oil, but some could contain palm oil (which is high in saturated “bad” fat).
  • Usually the cheapest option in the supermarket
  • Used for high temperature cooking

Best for: stir-frying, sautéing, pan-frying, baking, deep-frying and grilling.

Coconut Oil 

  • Extracted from the flesh of the coconut
  • Contains high amount of saturated fat (around 86%)
  • Low smoke point (around 177 ºC) and suitable for low temperature cooking
  • Can be expensive

Best for: stir-frying, sautéing, marinades and baked goods (that require low temperature cooking)

My pick 

One of the favourite oils that I use for cooking is the Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I can’t recommend that enough for my patients. Not only does it contain high amount of antioxidants but I love how it’s so versatile and I can use it in all types of cooking!

Not all cooking oils are equal, some are better than others. With so many options out there, choosing the right oil can be confusing!

Then of course there are health concerns, particularly around the cooking temperature of oils. People often tell me that they would only use coconut oil in cooking because they’ve been told that it has a much higher cooking temperature compared to olive oil. Is this true? I’ll let you decide. 

Facts about oils 

Cooking oils are liquid fats derived from animal, plants, nuts and seeds. All oils are fats and have very similar energy value. Fat is an essential nutrient necessary for overall good health. It helps transport fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) around our body.

There are two types of fats in our diet, one “good” and one “bad”. Saturated and Trans fat are considered as bad fats. These increase our level of harmful LDL cholesterol, which can increase our risk of heart disease. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered as good fats. These help bring down the harmful LDL cholesterol and reduce our risk of heart disease.

All cooking oils contain different types and amounts of fat. Some plant based oils such as olive or sunflower oil contain higher amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (good) fats, whilst others such as coconut or canola oil contain higher amount of saturated (bad) fats. But remember, all oils are high in fat (even the healthier ones) so we should use this in moderation.

Oil Jargons

Before we start talking about the different types oils, I’m just going to explain a few commonly used terms:

The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which it starts to break down and lose its nutritional value. When frying or baking it is important to choose an oil with a very high smoke point.

Cold-pressed (or unrefined) oils are created using minimal amount of heat. This means they are stronger in flavour and have higher amount of antioxidants

Lite/Light/Extra light only means the oil is light in flavour or colour, not lower in kilojoules. All oils have very similar energy value.

Which oil should I choose? 

Cooking oils can be used in so many different ways such as frying, baking, sautéing, salad dressings and stir-frying. But which oil works best for each cooking method? Here’s a quick guide to help get you started.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) 

  • Contains high amount of polyphenols and beta-carotene (antioxidants)
  • Minimal amount of trans fat
  • Mainly made up of monounsaturated fats
  • Cold-pressed oil
  • Smoke point between 205ºC and 215ºC (suitable for high temperature cooking)

Best for: stir-frying, roasting, baking, sautéing, salad dressings and marinades

Avocado Oil 

  • Contains high amount of monounsaturated fat (low amount of polyunsaturated fat)
  • Full of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D and E) and some B-group vitamins
  • Ideal of high temperature cooking (smoke point up to 250 ºC)
  • Most expensive type of oil

Best for: stir-frying, roasting, baking, sautéing, pan-frying, grilling and salad dressings

Grapeseed Oil 

  • High in polyunsaturated fats
  • Great source of vitamin E
  • Extracted from seeds of grapes and has a neutral flavour
  • Ideal for high temperature cooking (smoke point up to 216 ºC)

Best for: stir-frying, roasting, baking, sautéing, salad dressings, mayonnaise and marinades

Canola Oil 

  • High in monounsaturated fats and low in saturated fat
  • Most canola oil products are refined and have minimal amount of antioxidants
  • High smoke point of around 205ºC
  • Good all-purpose cooking oil

Best for: stir-frying, sautéing, pan-frying, salad dressings and marinades

Vegetable Oil 

  • Refined plant-based oil
  • Difficult to know what it’s made out of. Could be a blend between canola and soybean oil, but some could contain palm oil (which is high in saturated “bad” fat).
  • Usually the cheapest option in the supermarket
  • Used for high temperature cooking

Best for: stir-frying, sautéing, pan-frying, baking, deep-frying and grilling.

Coconut Oil 

  • Extracted from the flesh of the coconut
  • Contains high amount of saturated fat (around 86%)
  • Low smoke point (around 177 ºC) and suitable for low temperature cooking
  • Can be expensive

Best for: stir-frying, sautéing, marinades and baked goods (that require low temperature cooking)

My pick 

One of the favourite oils that I use for cooking is the Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I can’t recommend that enough for my patients. Not only does it contain high amount of antioxidants but I love how it’s so versatile and I can use it in all types of cooking!

Final tip: All oils are sensitive to heat, light and exposure to oxygen. So make sure you buy oil in dark glass bottles or tins and store it in a dark cupboard away from light.