All about the Oils used in Cooking - Properties and UsesThis page provides information on the common oils used in cooking, or that you may find as ingredients in purchased foods or sauces. This page provides summary information of some common oils. Where present, click on the link for additinonal discussion of each oil, and in particular for information on how to select the best quality oil of a particular kind.
Olive OilOlive oil is obtained by pressing the fruit from the olive tree. It is commonly used in cooking, especially in italian dishes. Olive oil is considered a good oil because of its benefit in controlling the mix of LDL (bad) cholesterol to HDL (good) cholesterol. Olive oil comes in many grades ranging from "extra virgin" olive oil which is from the first pressing of the olives, and "virgin" from the second pressing. Traitional olive oil may have undergone further processing and light olive oil more processing, where it may have lost some of its flavor.
Peanut OilPeanut oil is btained by pressing peanuts. The oil has a slight taste of peanuts, but the taste is not particularly strong. Peanut oil has a high smoke point compared to many other oils and as such is usful for things like stryfrying that uses high heat. Peanut oil is very commonly used in asian cooking.
Corn OilCorn Oil is commonly used for frying foods and as an ingredient in margarine. Although its flavor is not particularly strong, I prefer other vegerable oils when cooking foods where even a mild corn flavor might clash. Other don't share this view, and it is probably one of the most commonly used oils people reach for when when a recipe calls for vegetable oil.
Vegatable OilWhile you are not likely to find a product on the supermarket shelf named "vegetable oil", you will find it listed as an ingredient in many recipes. When listed, it is expected that you will choose from among several oils (mostly described elsewhere on this page) that fall in this category. Common oils in your cabinet that can be used include Safflower Oil, Corn Oil, and Canola Oil. In manufacturing, most companies choose oils for manufacturing properties or cost, and are likely to use Soybean oil or Canola. My own preference is not to use corn oil, and especially not olive oil because it imparts some flavor. I tend not to use peanut oil because it is more expensive, but it would do well in such recipes.
Safflower OilSafflower oil is flavorless vegetable oil commonly used in cooking and salad dressings. Some varieties of Safflower oil are high in polyunsarurated fats.and is considered to be one of the more healthy varieties of oil.
Sesame OilSesame Oil is an oil commonly used in asian cooking. It is extracted from Sesame seeds. The dark variety, which has a strong nutty flavor is taken from toasted sesame seeds. Unlike most other oils listed here, Sesame Oil is usually used in cooking to add flavor, rather than than for frying. It is often added near the end of cooking and sometimes used as a condiment. This is probably in part due to its strong flavor and high cost.
Soybean OilSoybean oil is commonly used in the production of processed foods, but not usually used in home cooking.
Canola OilCanola Oil is a trademarked name for vegetable oils with specific properties dervived from varieties of the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed oil has many undesiable characteristics, most of which have been eliminated through selective breeding of the plants used for Canola oil, and through subsequent refinement of the oil. There are claims that Canola oil is particular healthy because of its kiw ir zeri saturated fat content, but there are also unproven concerns about afety because of some of the properties of Rapeseed oil, from which it is was origionally derived.
Colza OilYou will not typicallyufind Colza oil on the shelf of the supermarket, and that is for good reason. I find the flavor of this oil to be awful. Despite this fact, you may find it as the first listed ingredient in some chili pases or sauces in asian supermarkets. Unfortuantely, if this oil is used as the based, the flavor does make it into the product and imparts what I find to be a bad flavor. Some forms of Colza oil are extracted from a variety of turnip plant, while in other places it is a semi-refined form of rapeseed oil. It is related to Canoloa oil, also extracted from rapeseed, but Canola oil has been processed further to remove the unpleasant flavor as well as other undersireable properties.
Hot Oil or Chili OilYou may find hot oil or chili oil in the supermarket, or especially in an asian grocery. These oils are usually other varieties of oil infused with, or that have been used to cook chili peppers. The properties and flavor of such oils is very dependent on the mix of underlying oils that are used. These oils are discussed in the section on asian chili pastes, oils, and sauces.