Oils are the basis for many favorite recipes and play a major part in various cooking techniques, from sautéing and frying to roasting and baking.

While many recipes specify which oil to use, some don’t. And believe it or not, you may actually get a superior meal by experimenting with something other than what’s called for.

Here’s an overview of the health benefits and best uses of common cooking oils. Keep scrolling below the image for more in-depth information on health benefits and how to store properly.

Most importantly: Don’t be afraid to experiment!

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Cooking oils: Health benefits, smoke points, and best uses

1. Extra-virgin olive oil

Quite possibly the most well-known and frequently used of cooking oils, extra-virgin olive oil, or EVOO, has earned its reputation as a healthy, versatile fat. It makes an excellent choice for its antioxidant content, heart-healthy fats, and links to cancer prevention.

Because of these benefits, and its widespread availability, you may find yourself using EVOO for absolutely every type of food prep.

But its low smoke point (the temperature at which it begins to degrade and release damaging free radicals) means it’s not always the best oil to use for cooking — at least not cooking at temperatures above 375ºF (191ºC).

For this reason, EVOO is often recommended for colder dishes like dips, salads, and dressings.

Store in an opaque container in a cool, dark place.

2. Light olive oil

Extra-virgin may get the most attention in the world of olive oils, but its “light” cousin contains many of the same health-boosting properties.

Light olive oil has a far higher smoke point of about 470ºF (243ºC). Therefore, it’s more ideal for high-temperature cooking, like sautéing, roasting, and grilling.

Light olive oil can also be used in baking, but be aware that its flavor may be overpowering. And don’t be fooled by its name. This olive oil doesn’t contain fewer calories than other varieties. Rather, “light” refers to its more neutral taste.

Store in an opaque container in a cool, dark place.

3. Coconut oil

Like most other oils, coconut comes in two varieties: refined or unrefined (also known as “virgin”).

Refined coconut oil has a smoke point of 450ºF (232ºC). It works well for sautéing or roasting and has a neutral, light-coconut taste.

Virgin coconut oil, on the other hand, offers more signature coconut flavor and can be used at temperatures up to 350ºF (177ºC). Both are also suitable for baking with a 1:1 ratio for butter or other oils.

Coconut oil has seen its share of controversy over its healthiness recently, so check out our analysis of the evidence around its health benefits.

Store in a glass container in a cool, dark place.

4. Canola and other vegetable oils

Now a kitchen staple, canola oil was developed in the 1970s by researchers at the University of Manitoba — hence the prefix “can” for Canada.

While other vegetable oils come from a blend of vegetables (which, depending on labeling, may remain a mystery), canola oil is always derived from rapeseed plants.

The refining process of both canola and other vegetable oils leaves them with a neutral taste and medium-high smoke point of 400ºF (204ºC). This makes them useful for stir-frying, sautéing, grilling, frying, and baking.

Health information about canola and other vegetable oils can be conflicting, so check out our guide to their benefits and drawbacks.

Store in a cool, dark place.

5. Avocado oil

If you know that avocados are chock-full of healthy monounsaturated fats, you won’t be surprised to learn that their oil is, too.

In addition to a high content of these good fats, avocado oil boasts the highest known smoke point of any plant oil — 520ºF (271ºC) for refined and up to 480ºF (249ºC) for unrefined. It’s a rock star for frying, searing, roasting, and grilling.

Though avocado oil is considered a carrier oil that lets other flavors shine, choose the refined version if you prefer a mild, unobtrusive taste.

Store in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator for longer preservation.

6. Peanut oil

There’s a reason peanut oil is so often used in Thai, Chinese, and other Asian cuisines. The refined variety, with a smoke point of 450ºF (232ºC), is wonderfully conducive to high-temperature stir-frying.

It also works well in large-batch frying, which is why the food industry heavily relies upon it for menu items like french fries and fried chicken.

Unrefined peanut oil, on the other hand, has a smoke point of 320ºF (160ºC). Add it to dressings or marinades for extra flavor. See our guide for information on peanut oil’s health effects.

Store in a cool, dark place.

7. Sesame oil

Sesame oil just may be the unsung hero your cooking needs. With plenty of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, it rivals olive oil as a healthy choice for cooking.

A mid-range smoke point of anywhere from 350 to 400ºF (177 to 204ºC) means it can be used in stir-frying and sautéing as well as adding flavor as a condiment.

Store in the refrigerator for best results.

Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a nutritionist, freelance health writer, and food blogger. She lives with her husband and three children in Mesa, Arizona. Find her sharing down-to-earth health and nutrition info and (mostly) healthy recipes at A Love Letter to Food.