A variety of good cooking oils are must-have ingredients in any kitchen. Heated for sautéing, drizzled over finished dishes, or used as the base for a fruity salad dressing, high-quality oils can take many a dish from ho-hum to wow.
And while olive oil gets most of the glory, it’s not always the best oil to use. Some dishes require a more neutral flavor; some recipes use cooking temperatures higher than olive oil can stand. It’s essential to choose the right oil for the job. Some considerations:
Essential Oils for Every Kitchen
Almond oil: 420
Ideally, every kitchen should have at least three different oils: one for high-heat cooking, one for basic low- to moderate-temperature cooking, and one flavorful variety such as peanut oil or sesame oil, for international dishes and dressings. Supplement these basics with a nut oil for flavorful dressings, a good baking oil, and a finishing oil—such as pumpkin seed oil, avocado oil, citrus olive oil, or black truffle oil—to drizzle on dishes just before serving. Here are our five top favorite types of oils:1. Olive. With its moderate smoke point, olive oil is one of the best all-purpose oils. Certain cooking shows play up extra-virgin olive oil, but it’s not always the best oil to use. For frying, roasting, and other high-temperature cooking techniques, choose an oil that has a higher smoke point. Extra-virgin oils are best for salads, dressing, and dipping breads. A high-quality extra-virgin selection with a rich green color and buttery aroma can also be a lovely finishing oil. Or try a novelty finishing oil, like olive oil infused with black truffles—especially nice over potato-leek soup or seafood risotto.
Essentials: Napa Valley Naturals Organic Reserve Cuvée Olive Oil; Bionaturae Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil; Pearson Ranch Citrus Olive Oil; La Tienda Black Truffle Infused Olive Oil; and Napa Valley Naturals Sweet and Fruity Olive Oil.
2. Sesame oil. Stir-fries come alive with the nutty Asian flavor of sesame oil. Refined sesame oil is best for higher-temperature stir-fries and baking vegetables. Or choose the unrefined version for lower-temperature sautéing or for Asian-inspired salad dressings. Start with a small amount, since a little goes a long way.
Essentials: Napa Valley Naturals Organic Sesame Oil; Spectrum Organic Refined Sesame Oil; Rapunzel Organic Sesame Oil; and Napa Valley Naturals Organic Toasted Sesame Oil.
3. Coconut oil. With its high smoke point and long shelf life, coconut oil is a wonderful all-purpose kitchen oil, especially for baking. Unrefined coconut oils have a rich, buttery flavor that can replace butter in many dishes, and can be used to add Thai flavor to a medium-temperature stir-fry. Refined coconut oils have a higher smoke point, so they’re best for high-heat cooking like roasting or frying.
Essentials: Health Support Raw Organic Coconut Oil; Nutiva Organic Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil; and Spectrum Refined Organic Coconut Oil.
4. Walnut oil. This high-heat cooking oil has a bold, nutty flavor; like walnuts, it also has a high content of healthy omega-3 fats. Though it has a high smoke point, cooking diminishes the rich flavor, so it’s best used at low-temperature cooking or as a finishing oil. Toss it with cooked farfalle pasta, stir it into softened butter for a fragrant spread, combine it with grapeseed or olive oil for a distinctive salad dressing, or use it as a finishing oil over cream soups or grains.
Essentials: Flora Organic Walnut Oil and La Tourangelle Roasted Walnut Oil.
5. Grapeseed. This light, clean-tasting oil is a favorite for higher heat cooking. Its neutral flavor and high smoke point make it ideal for a variety of cooking needs. It’s also great for mixing with strong oils to tame their flavor.
Essentials: Napa Valley Naturals Grapeseed Oil and Bourges Refined Grapeseed Oil.