The Difference Between Cooking Oils | Which Should I Cook With?

If you love to cook, but hate to bake, chances are it’s because you think you’re better at being gung-ho with your cooking. The phrase “I just throw it all in there” is your mantra. You don’t own weighing scales. You’re a cooking maverick.

And the same goes for when you see a recipe stating a special type of cooking oil. “One tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil” the recipe tells you. Your response? A glug of sunflower oil will do just fine.

The only trouble with this, however, is that the recipe asks for a particular oil for a reason. Each cooking oil, while they might look the same, are built differently and, thus, do different jobs along the cooking process. They also have hugely varying flavour portfolios; something of which can change the taste of your food from gorgeously rich to bland and cardboard-like.

Let’s dive into the wonderful world of cooking oils, shall we?

Extra virgin olive oil

Arguably the most expensive oil on the market, extra virgin is made by cold pressing olives so that it retains a strong, fruity flavour from manufacturing to bottling.

Use for: Salad dressing, sautes and dips.

Don’t use for: High temperature cooking, such as frying. It burns the oil and ruins the flavour.

Olive oil

The most versatile of all the oils, olive oil boasts a laundry list of cooking benefits, including having a high smoke point (so it doesn’t burn easily), a robust flavour and delicate, viscous texture. It does have a milder flavour from its Extra Virgin cousin, however.

Use for: Shallow and deep frying

Don’t use for: Replacing the flavour profile in dips and dressings – you need EVOO for that.

TOP TIP: Don’t be fooled by olive oils which claim to be ‘light’. It does not mean they are lower in fat or calories – it literally means they are lighter in colour. Just like some Cheddar cheeses are orange and others are light yellow, it’s superficial messaging, and doesn’t make any different to the nutritional profile of the product.

Coconut oil

Solid at room temperature, coconut oil creates a thin, butter-like consistency when melted and, as such, is a good dairy-free substitute in baking. As an olive oil replacement, however, the flavour and texture is not like-for-like and shouldn’t be switched out.

Use for: Low-heat cooking, such as sauteeing.

Don’t use for: Dressings, dips or high heat cooking.


Sunflower oil

Made by pressing sunflower seeds, this oil has a high smoke point and less fat than vegetable oil, making it a dream daily cooking oil. The only trouble is that it has a short shelf life, so try to buy in small bottles to retain the goodness inside.

Use for: Deep frying, roasting and stir-frying.

Don’t use for: Low heat frying.

Vegetable oil

This type of oil is at the bottom of the oil connoisseur’s list, namely for its lack of flavour. It is, however, the cheapest type of oil and is therefore used commercially in everything from cookies to cakes to McDonald’s fries to pub lunches. Use as a cheap daily frying oil, just try not to use too much as vegetable oils are hydrogenated and, as a result, contain a wealth of trans fats.

Use for: Deep frying, roasting and stir-frying.

Don’t use for: Dressings, dips or sauces.




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