Cooking oils and fats are used in cooking for a variety of reasons. They add flavor, texture, and aroma to food. Some oils are solid at room temperature while others are liquid.
There are different types of cooking oils and fats including vegetable oil, olive oil, coconut oil, lard, butter, and tallow. Each type has its own characteristics and uses.
This chart shows the smoke point of each type of cooking oil and fat. It also includes information on how long each type of oil and fat should be cooked at high temperatures. The higher the smoke point is listed, the longer it will last when heated. This means that you can use these oils or fats without worrying about them burning up before they reach their full potential as flavoring agents.
Vegetable oil is one of the most commonly used cooking oils because it’s inexpensive and easy to find.
Most people think of using this kind of oil only for frying foods like french fries and chicken nuggets. However, there are many other ways to cook with vegetable oil besides just deep-frying. You can saute vegetables in vegetable oil, make salad dressings with it, bake bread with it, and even stir fry some veggies in it.
Olive oil is another popular choice among cooks who enjoy flavorful dishes. Like all cooking oils, olive oil adds great taste to food but unlike other kinds of oil, it’s considered heart healthy due to its monounsaturated fatty acid content. Monounsaturated fats reduce bad LDL cholesterol and increase good HDL cholesterol.
In fact, studies show that eating 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil per day lowers total cholesterol by 3 points and reduces triglycerides by 20 percent! That’s a lot of benefits for something we put into our mouths every single day.
Unlike other cooking oils, olive oil isn’t very stable once exposed to heat. So, while you can use olive oil for baking, roasting, grilling, and sautéing, you shouldn’t try heating it beyond 350°F/180°C. At those temperatures, olive oil starts breaking down and losing flavor.
If you want to keep your olive oil from turning rancid, store it away from light and air. Keep it refrigerated if possible. If not, then place it in an opaque container so that no light gets through. And don’t forget to shake it well before opening it.
Like olive oil, coconut oil contains lots of healthful nutrients. But unlike olive oil, which comes mainly from olives, coconut oil is made from coconuts.
It’s rich in medium-chain saturated fats called MCTs. These fats have been shown to improve metabolism and help burn body fat more efficiently than regular fats. In addition, they may boost energy levels and promote weight loss.
Like olive oil, coconut oil doesn’t stay fresh forever. Once opened, it begins to go rancid quickly. To prevent this, buy small amounts of coconut oil and store it tightly sealed in the refrigerator.
You can also freeze leftover coconut oil in ice cube trays and transfer frozen cubes directly into plastic bags. Then pop out individual portions whenever needed.
Lard is similar to bacon grease in terms of both appearance and texture. Unlike bacon grease though, lard is solid rather than liquid.
Because of this, lard has a much lower smoking temperature than butter does. For example, lard melts around 300°F/150°C whereas butter stays soft until it reaches 375°F/190°C.
That said, lard still burns fairly easily. When you’re making fried foods such as French fries, pancakes, waffles, etc., you’ll need to watch carefully to avoid overcooking them.
When talking about smoke points, most people assume that higher numbers mean better quality. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The term "smoke point" actually refers to how hot a particular type of oil will start burning when heated over high heat. It’s important to know what these different types of smoke points really mean because they affect how long certain foods should remain on the stovetop or grill.
For instance, peanut oil has a low smoke point. You wouldn’t cook with it at all since it would begin to break down too soon. On the flip side, avocado oil has a relatively high smoke point. Because of its stability, you could safely fry up some eggs using avocado oil without worrying about them getting burned.
But there are two exceptions to this rule. First, coconut oil has a very high smoke point. Second, olive oil has one of the lowest smoke points among common cooking oils. That means you’d probably get the best results by frying food in olive oil instead of any other kind.
As we’ve seen, each type of oil has unique qualities. Some are great for baking while others work best for deep frying. Knowing what those differences are can make a big difference in the way you prepare meals. So take note of the information above and use it wisely!