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The basics of using alternative cooking oils


The cooking oil aisle in your grocery store can be a little overwhelming. You've got your basics, like vegetable and olive oil, but what about the not-so-known options?

Holistic nutritionist Joy McCarthy dropped by our kitchen to break down alternative oils and how to use them.


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Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

  • AVOID: High temperature sautéing or frying
  • BEST FOR: Salad dressing, drizzling on food after cooking and low-medium temperature cooking. You can always dilute it with a touch of water when sautéing with it.
  • NOTE: Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) has received a bad rap for being used as a cooking oil for years, but research shows this might not actually be well warranted. The challenge with EVOO is that the quality of the oil really determines the smoke point and there is a broad variation in quality from one brand to another. Unadulterated high quality extra-virgin olive oil contains many antioxidants that protect the oil at high temperatures. Cheap olive oils will smoke at a relatively low temperature. The lesson here is to buy the best quality extra-virgin olive oil for the best nutrition, taste and decent smoke point.

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Coconut Oil
  • AVOID: Frying
  • BEST FOR: Baking, sautéing medium temperature
  • NOTE: Choose unrefined coconut oil. Refined coconut oil might stand up to heat better and have no coconut taste but it is, well, refined. Coconut oil should in fact smell and taste like coconuts so be sure to avoid coconut oil that has “deodorized” on the label as well.

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Avocado Oil
  • AVOID: Frying
  • BEST FOR: Baking, sautéing medium to high temperature

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Grapeseed Oil
  • AVOID: Frying
  • BEST FOR: Baking, sautéing medium to high temperature

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Sesame Oil
  • AVOID: High temperature sautéing or frying
  • BEST FOR: Salad dressing, drizzling on food after cooking and low-medium temperature cooking

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Flaxseed Oil
  • AVOID: All forms of heat. Must be refrigerated.
  • BEST FOR: Salad dressings, smoothies

Camelina Oil
  • AVOID: Frying
  • BEST FOR: Baking, sautéing medium to high temperature. Note: it has a distinct nutty flavour.

Cooking temperatures for fats and oils
Oils break down at a certain point known as their “smoke point”. When they break down this means free radical damage to the oil and this is not healthy for you. Oils can form harmful compounds such a lipid peroxides and aldehydes, which may contribute to cancer.
 
Generally speaking, the more saturated fat an oil contains the more stable during cooking it is. This chart provides you with guidance on temperatures for the most popular oils I’ve used in the recipes section.
 
Always choose organic, cold-pressed oils in dark glass bottles.