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Most people use cooking oils regularly, as you can use them to prepare all sorts of dishes, including meat, eggs, vegetables, sauces, and certain grain dishes.
People often focus on how to choose a healthy oil. However, the healthiness of an oil when it comes off the grocery shelf is only part of the story.
It’s also important to consider whether the oil is still healthy to eat after you’ve heated it during cooking.
This is because cooking oils have a range of smoke points or temperatures at which they’re no longer stable. You should avoid using cooking oils for cooking at temperatures above their smoke point.
This article reviews four healthier cooking oils that tolerate high heat cooking — plus our picks of the best tasting options. We also discuss a few oils that are best kept away from the heat.
When cooking oils are heated, particularly at high heat, they eventually reach their smoke point. This is the temperature at which the oil is no longer stable and begins to break down.
When oil breaks down, it begins to oxidize and release free radicals. These compounds can have negative health consequences, potentially causing cellular damage that may lead to disease development (
Furthermore, oils that reach their smoke point release a substance called acrolein, which can create an unpleasant burnt flavor. Airborne acrolein may be dangerous to your lungs (
The amount of processing can also affect oil quality
Highly refined oils have a uniform appearance and tend to be less expensive. Unrefined oils undergo minimal processing and may contain sediment particles, have a cloudier appearance, and maintain more of their natural flavor and color.
Unrefined oils may contain more nutrients, but they’re also more sensitive to heat and may go rancid more quickly than highly processed cooking oils. Refined oils tend to have higher smoke points than unrefined oils (
Some refined oils are extracted using chemical solvents, while other oils are extracted by pressing plants or seeds. Many consumers avoid chemically extracted oils and prefer those made by pressing, such as cold pressed olive oil.
Oils from different sources can vary significantly in their nutritional composition
Where oils come from particularly affects the proportion and types of fatty acids they contain. This can significantly influence their health effects.
Read more about how some vegetable and seed oils can promote good health, while others can do the opposite.
Cooking oils have their pros and cons. It’s helpful to choose cooking oils based on their smoke point and degree of processing.
The smoke point of olive oil is approximately 350°F (176°C), which is a common cooking temperature for many recipes, particularly those for baked goods.
Olive oil has long been the gold standard for cooking oils in kitchens across the globe. This is largely because it’s versatile. It has a subtle peppery or grassy flavor, and you can use it for baking, sautéing, or cold dressings.
Olive oil is rich in vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant. The primary fatty acid in olive oil is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. Studies have shown that oleic acid may have anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties (
Additionally, olive oil contains antioxidant compounds called oleocanthal and oleuropein. These may have anti-inflammatory effects, including lowering blood pressure and helping prevent LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidizing (
A favorite of Healthline nutrition editor and registered dietitian Kelli McGrane, MS, RD, California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil is cold-pressed from California-grown olives and can easily be found at most large supermarkets.
“This olive oil is a staple in my kitchen. It has a lovely golden hue and mild floral aroma that works perfectly for savory dishes as well as baked goods,” McGrane says. “Plus, because it doesn’t break the bank, I don’t feel bad about using it liberally. It truly is an everyday cooking oil.”
Olive oil has a medium smoke point and works well for baking and cooking. It’s rich in antioxidants and may have anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and heart-health benefits.
Avocado oil has a smoke point of approximately 520°F (271°C), making it great for high heat cooking like deep frying.
It has a neutral, avocado-like taste, which makes it perfect for sweet or savory cooking. It also has a nutritional composition similar to olive oil, with a high percentage of the heart-healthy fat oleic acid (
One review concluded that it maintains its nutritional quality at low and high temperatures (
The quality and nutritional makeup of avocado oil depend on various factors, including where the avocados were grown and the extraction method used.
Some older animal studies have indicated that compounds in avocado oil may help protect the liver in response to metabolic disease and help lower blood pressure, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides, high levels of which may increase your risk of heart disease and heart attack (
Avocado oil may even be beneficial for reducing osteoarthritis-related joint pain, post-meal blood sugar, and total cholesterol levels. It can also enhance the absorption of other nutrients and protect cells against free radical damage, according to small human and animal trials (13, 14, 15).
Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil has a light, mild taste that works well for everything from muffin batter to salad dressings to pan-frying fish. According to Kelsey Kunik, RDN, “The versatility and quality of this oil makes it an essential pantry staple.”
“At $14–$17 for a 16.9-ounce bottle, I try to limit its use for recipes where I need less than 1/3–1/2 cup to save on costs,” Kunik says, “but it works so well in a variety of dishes that I go through bottles quickly!”
Avocado oil is nutritionally similar to olive oil. It may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and heart-health benefits. It also has a higher smoke point that works well for high heat cooking methods like deep frying.
Sesame oil has a medium-high smoke point of approximately 410°F (210°C).
Plus, one small study among 46 people with type 2 diabetes found that using sesame oil for 90 days significantly improved fasting blood sugar and long-term biomarkers of blood sugar management (
Sesame oil works well for sautéing, general purpose cooking, and even as a salad dressing. It offers a mild nutty flavor that can work well in a number of stovetop dishes.
Note that regular sesame oil differs from toasted sesame oil. The latter has a more amplified nutty flavor, making it more suitable for finishing a dish than cooking one.
For high heat cooking, like stir-fries, this sesame oil does the trick. The flavor is incredibly mild, unlike toasted sesame oil, making it work for any style of high heat cooking.
Plus, you can find it at many Walmarts and large grocery stores.
Note that the company also offers organic and toasted varieties as well.
Sesame oil offers numerous benefits and has a medium-high smoke point and versatile, nutty flavor. Just remember that toasted sesame oil isn’t the same thing and it’s more suitable for finishing a dish.
The smoke point for safflower oil is higher, sitting at approximately 510°F (265°C).
Safflower oil is made from the seeds of the safflower plant. It’s low in saturated fat and contains a higher percentage of unsaturated fatty acids.
Safflower oil is available with different amounts of linoleic and linolenic acids. High oleic safflower oil has at least 70% linoleic acid. Replacing other types of fat with high oleic safflower oil could help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (
This oil offers a neutral flavor that works well for marinades, sauces, and dips, as well as barbecuing and frying on the stovetop.
Spectrum Organics Organic Safflower Oil is certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and non-GMO verified. It’s also easily available online and at many large grocery stores.
According to Healthline’s Nutrition Editor, Kelli McGrane MS, RD: “Because safflower oil isn’t my go-to cooking oil of choice, I like that this bottle from Spectrum Organics isn’t huge (unlike many safflower oils), so I don’t have to worry about it going rancid before I can finish it,” McGrane says. “This product works particularly well for cooking chicken at high temps as it results in a nice, crisp exterior.”
Safflower oil has a high smoke point and neutral flavor. High oleic safflower oil may have anti-inflammatory properties, and promote heart health and blood sugar management.
When you need to prevent food from sticking to the pan or want a very light layer of oil on your food, there’s a good chance you reach for a can of cooking spray instead.
To get the oil out of the can, chemicals like butane, isobutane, and propane are often used as propellants. While in large amounts, these ingredients can be toxic, regular use of cooking spray has been deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Union based on current research (
Still, if you prefer to avoid consuming these propellants, there are alternatives to consider, including nonaerosol products and oil spray bottles that you can fill with your favorite oil.
Here are a few of our favorite store-bought cooking sprays:
- Filippo Berio Mild & Light in Colour Olive Oil Spray: “I love the subtle olive oil flavor in this spray,” Kunik says of the Filippo Berio Mild & Light in Colour Olive Oil Spray. “It’s perfect for using on vegetables before roasting, bread before toasting, and over the top of greens when you want a very light coating of oil. It’s nonaerosol and includes a blend of light olive oil and extra virgin.”
- Pompeian 100% Avocado Oil Cooking Spray: Kunik also likes the Pompeian 100% Avocado Oil Cooking Spray. “This is my go-to spray for for baking pans and roasted vegetables,” she says. “It’s mild in flavor and works well at high heat. The price point can’t be beaten either.”
- Chefs Life Cooking Spray (Brown Butter Flavor): This butter-flavored spray is a favorite of Healthline commerce editor Christy Snyder. The Chefs Life Cooking Spray (Brown Butter Flavor) contains a blend of olive, avocado, sunflower, and grapeseed oils, and adds an extra depth of flavor to anything you spray it over.
Not all oils are stable enough or intended for use in cooking, particularly in high heat preparations. Others do better in cold preparations or used as dietary supplements, for example.
The following oils are best to avoid when it comes to high heat cooking:
- Fish or algae oil: These are intended to be omega-3-rich dietary supplements that you should take cold and in small doses. Don’t use these products for cooking purposes.
- Flax oil: While high in the heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), this oil has a low smoke point at around 217°F (103°C), and you should reserve it for cold uses like salad dressings (
- Palm oil: Health-wise, palm oil is calorie dense. The main problem here is ethical, as the production of palm oil has been strongly linked to rainforest destruction and a loss of biodiversity (
- Walnut oil: This oil is high in ALA and offers some anti-inflammatory and potential anticancer benefits. However, it’s also best to reserve for cold preparations like salad dressing. It has a lower smoke point, and goes rancid quickly, so storing it in the refrigerator will help preserve its shelf life (
Some oils are not recommended for high heat cooking. Flax and walnut oil have lower smoke points and are best in cold preparations. Fish and algae oil are intended as supplements, and palm oil comes with ethical considerations.
What is the healthiest oil for cooking?
The healthiest oil to cook with is olive oil. It’s versatile, being used in everything from frying to finishing. It’s also rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, and polyphenols, all of which have shown protective effects against cancer and liver, heart, and neurodegenerative diseases (
What is the unhealthiest oil to cook with?
Coconut oil is controversial. However, it has the most saturated fats of any oil. Additionally, a recent review analyzed 16 studies and found that eating coconut oil significantly increases LDL (bad) cholesterol, a major risk factor in heart disease, compared with nontropical vegetable and seed oils (
Which cooking oil is best for heart health?
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the most heart-healthy oils you can use in your cooking.
This oil has been extensively studied for its ability to reduce the risk of heart disease and risk of death from heart disease. It’s high in monounsaturated fatty acids and plant compounds that have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and vasodilatory effects (
There’s an option for every health goal, taste preference, and budget when it comes to cooking oils. For high heat cooking, it’s important to choose oils that maintain their stability. Oils heated past their smoke point break down, which affects flavor and can produce unhealthy compounds.
Some healthier cooking oils that can withstand higher temperatures include olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, and safflower oil.
Plus, they contain various unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, and other compounds that may offer health benefits.
On the other hand, some oils are better to use for cold preparations or as dietary supplements, but not recommended for high heat cooking. Some examples include fish oil, flax oil, palm oil, and walnut oil.