Olive – This kitchen staple has been used for more than 6,000 years. Best for salads, pastas, bread dipping and light sauteing. Don’t select anything other than extra-virgin. You want to have a good quality oil. I have even been known to use this oil in baking when I’m in a pinch, with no olive flavor detectable. An obvious and healthy choice as part of the much praised Mediterranean diet. Smoke point: 375 degrees F
Butter – Ohh…beloved butter. An ancient miracle that has been around for an estimated 10,000 years, since humans began domesticating animals. I don’t need to tell you where to use this: toast (duh), baking, hot bread, a dollop in soup for flavor, mashed potatoes, light sauteing or for scrambling eggs. There has been a lot of back and forth over the years about whether or not this golden dream is healthy or unhealthy. I personally believe everything in moderation. Smoke point: 300 degrees F.
Canola AKA Rapeseed – There have been a lot of rumors that canola oil is toxic to humans. This has been proven false. Unfortunately the way it is manufactured involves heating the oil to high temperatures, which changes the oil on a molecular level, and probably would not be my first choice. But generally this is considered to be heart healthy type of oil to use, a standard for baking. Smoke point: 375 (expeller press) 400 (refined) degrees F.
Vegetable / Margarine / Shortening – Please read this very important article Why You Should Never Eat Vegetable Oil or Margarine and this one Some Vegetable Oils Increase Risk of Heart Disease.
Sunflower – This oil has a very distinct flavor, and is excellent in salads, frying fish or chicken. I use this occasionally in baking as well. This oil is touted as being excellent for cardiovascular health, helpful for arthritis. But make sure you are buying cold pressed oil, because seed oils tend to change when they are processed at high temperatures, and can become rancid. Smoke point: 225 (unrefined) 440 degrees F.
Rice Bran – Commonly used in Asian cooking, this oil has a higher smoke point which makes it more suitable for frying and deep frying It is said to lower cholesterol, and there are even some experts saying it may even help people who are trying to lose weight. Smoke point: 490 degrees F.
Sesame – Hindus consider this oil to be sacred, and it has been used for thousands of years as a medicine, primarily for the wealthy. This oil has a very strong taste of sesame and very distinct smell when cooking. It is the least prone to rancidity due to its high antioxidant content. I love this oil for Asian dishes. Smoke Point: 350 (unrefined) 450 (refined) degrees F.
Coconut – This oil was the victim of a hysteria in the 1990’s for the “discovery” that it was full of saturated fat. This studies were done mainly on coconut oil that was mixed with partially hydrogenated oil, which everyone knows is the real culprit. It has been shown to fight off fungal and bacterial infections, increase metabolism, helps in the prevention of Alzheimer’s and is excellent for skin and hair. Use as a replacement for butter or shortening or saute your Thai or Indian foods. Yummmmmm!!! Be sure to buy extra virgin! Smoke point: 350 degrees F.
Peanut – Also common in Asian cooking and the most used oil in fast food restaurants for deep frying, since it doesn’t absorb flavors from food. Smoke point: 320(unrefined) 400(refined) degrees F
Avocado – An oil with very unusual properties. It is one of the only oils that is not derived from seeds. It has a very high smoke point and penetrates and absorbs into the skin rapidly. I haven’t tried this one yet, but I think I’ve been a fool not to! Smoke point: 375(unrefined) 520 (refined) degrees F