7 Common Cooking Oils and When to Use Them

Here's the scoop on which oils are best for deep-frying, sauteing, marinating and more.

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Choosing the Right Oil

Extra virgin olive oil isn't the only oil you should reach for when cooking. There are many other varieties in supermarkets these days. Consider this your primer on the oil aisle, including the best time to use each variety.

Canola Oil

This neutral-tasting oil is derived from rapeseed. Its high smoke point (the temperature at which an oil breaks down and begins smoking) makes it ideal for making dishes like fried chicken or french fries. Its flavor also lends itself well to mayonnaise.

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Coconut Oil (Unrefined)

This newly ubiquitous oil is often touted as an all-natural vegan butter substitute — plus, studies report it contains high levels of antioxidants, and it protectors against the culprits that bring on cardiovascular problems and aging (however, it is high in saturated fat, so it's not a miracle worker). Because of its low smoke point, coconut oil is best for quick sautes and baking. Or use it as a spread that adds a hint of coconut flavor.

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Corn Oil

This oil is inexpensive to produce, and it has a high smoke point and a mild flavor. On the flip side, it is generally made from genetically modified organisms and is very refined, meaning it is stripped of most nutrients and antioxidants. It's handy for deep-frying — but not much else.

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Extra Virgin Olive Oil

This sweet and light oil boasts healthy fat and lots of antioxidants, so its health benefits trump most other oils. It has a lower smoke point, but it is delicious even just drizzled over some vegetables, so use it for light sauteing, dressings and marinades.

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Olive Oil

Olive oil is a refined version of extra virgin olive oil, meaning it has fewer nutrients but a higher smoke point. Because of this, it's good for frying.

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Peanut oil is a mild frying oil, but it's more expensive to produce than others. Its high smoke point means the oil can be strained and reused until it breaks down (typically no more than two or three uses).

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Sesame Oil

This fragrant oil has a lower smoke point, so use it to add a toasty note to stir-fries, marinades, sauces and vinaigrettes. Store it in the fridge for maximum shelf life; like other delicate oils (such as avocado oil or walnut oil), it can turn rancid quickly.

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