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The best cooking oil - is it canola, olive, peanut, corn, soybean, safflower, other vegetable or nut /seed oil, even lard or butter?

Considerations might be

smoke point temperature
saturated fat content
other health benefits
price & availability in bulk

Since we use it so frequently, it would be good to be informed. I am curious how canola compares to safflower, corn oil to regular "vegetable oil". Palm to coconut. Any thoughts?

Should butter (or ghee) remain a special treat, or can we use it frequently whenever we can? Other animal fats?

What do restaurants use?
What is your everyday oil?

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  1. There's no one answer to your question -- people (and restaurants) use different fats for different purposes.

    I like to use "traditional" fats -- those that have been used for centuries. Which means animal fats and oils like olive oil. I personally think Canola oil is an invention of the devil -- artificially created and icky tasting -- but that's a rather idiosyncratic position on my part.

    The health benefits of various fats are widely debated. Personally, I don't think it makes much difference in the amount most people consume from their home cooking.

    When I want a neutral oil with a high smoke point I use grapeseed oil. It can be purchased fairly cheaply in large quantities from middle eastern groceries (or in half-liter bottles for $2.49 at Trader Joe's).

    19 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Isn't canola oil another name for grapeseed oil?

      1. re: nosh

        No, it's RAPEseed, not GRAPEseed. As you can imagine, the producers decided that "rape" was not a word they wanted associated with their product, so the coined the term "canola" (from Canadian oil, since that's where it was being cultivated).

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Yes, rape is a mustard family plant that has brilliant yellow flowers in May in northern climes. When you see spring fields of yellow in Britain or Canada in films, it's often rape in bloom.

        2. re: nosh

          No, it is canola seed oil, a specially bred (from Rape seed), seed for the oil.

          1. re: Quine

            There is no such thing as canola seed. The name comes from CANadian Oil Low Acid, a low-erucic acid (a suspected carcinogen) oil extracted from genetically modified rapeseed.

            1. re: cheryl_h

              Oh dear, you better tell these people then: The Canola Council of Canada. They clearly state it is from the canola seed. Read for yourself:

              1. re: Quine

                Propaganda from a marketing board isn't always very reliable information.

                1. re: Quine

                  The Canola Council has a vested interest in the commercial branding of a botanical herb, as it were. But "canola" is purely a commercial term. Rape is the ordinary agricultural name.

                  1. re: Karl S

                    ruth and karl here are correct. canola is BS.

                    1. re: laliz

                      What "board" are you referring to? Looks like the Canola Council of Canada has changed their website address to www.canolacouncil.org

                2. re: Quine

                  Quine, from http://www.annieappleseedproject.org/...
                  Canola is a name that recently appeared in the marketplace and is apparently derived from Canadian-oil. Canola oil is actually produced from the rape seed plant. Rape (Brassica napus), a member of the mustard family, is listed in the Encyclopedia Britannica as a poisonous plant with toxic effects which include ìpulmonary emphysema, respiratory distress, anemia, constipation, irritability and blindness in cattle.

                  1. re: Kelli2006

                    Yeah, that's why they had to do a lot of manipulation of the plant to get it to product something fit for human consumption.

                    I guess the issues is, at what point does something become a new species of plant? The plant they're calling "canola" is not the same at the rape plant they started from, but is it different enough to warrant being called a completely different plant?

                      1. re: Quine

                        While some of the knocks against canola have been addressed, there remain some open issues.

                        1. re: Karl S

                          Some background info from the folks who helped modify the canola seed:


                          Explains a bit about what was wrong with it, and what has been done.

                          1. re: mrbunsrocks

                            Apparently, because it is so low in saturated fat, that makes it more vulnerable to smelling and tasty fishy at high temperatures.

                        2. re: Quine

                          You have to be careful with snopes, while they are good on a lot of things they do have a personal preference for anything that the government, big pharma and the FDA says regardless of how dangerous it turns out to be.

                          Canola is not going to kill you but as with anything that is genetically modified into a synthetic form and called food...you would do better not to consume much of it. Period

                          1. re: idiosyabounds

                            Canola was genetically modified in the same sense that most agricultural crops were modified, by traditional methods of cross-breeding and selection. There is absolutely nothing "synthetic" about canola oil. The "manipulations" done to the ancestral rapeseed to reduce the amount of undesirable erucic acid are no different that the "manipulations" done to turn an ancestral cabbage plant (another member of the fearful mustard genus) into broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy and dozens of other cultivars.

                            Yes, there are some modern GMO varieties of canola, e.g. roundup ready, but they have nothing to do with what makes the plant produce low levels of erucic acid.

                3. Grapeseed and safflower are my reliables for neutral, high-heat oils. I avoid canola because there are unresolved questions about how it behaves at very high heat (the marketing campaign for canola is impressive, though). For bulk use (like deep frying), I use soybean oil. I find peanut oil has a distinct flavor rather than being neutral(but many people do not) so I prefer soybean oil to it for that purpose.

                  I rely on olive oil and butter and ghee for flavored fats. Good butter is pretty hard to beat: it has water (which creates flakiness in baked goods) and sugars and proteins (which add flavor) and has 80% of the calories of oil on a per unit volume basis. It's indispensible. I have low-normal cholesterol, so I am not terribly concerned about that issue; the joy of genetics.

                  Walnut and hazelnut oils are wonderful drizzled over roasted vegetables. Roasted pumpkin seed oil makes a beautiful effect and a lovely flavor; roasted sesame oil is essential in Chinese cooking -- use both sparingly.

                  Goose fat is the premium animal body fat; it's worth buying a goose (often availabe in September and December) just to render a quart of that fat. It's great for all sorts of cooking, especially potatoes. Duck fat is also great for this. Lard and tallow I use less, but I don't make pie crusts else I might use lard more. Bacon fat from good bacon used to be the main cooking fat in the US, and is worth having for flavoring certain vegetables in a braise.

                  Palm and coconut oils are useful substitutes for hydrogenated vegetable shortening, as they are solid at room temperature due to their saturated fat content.

                  In the end, you need to match the fat to the method and need; each type of fat excels at different things.

                  1. when I can get it I actually like to use Camellia oil (oil from the seeds of the tea plant) Currenly the only company I know that sells it is the Republic Of Tea but other doublessly exist it is the listest cleanest tasting oil I have ever had and its smoke point is prectically infinity. I was once told that certaing group of Buddist monks (who supposedly first found out about the oil) believed that the airiness and lightness of dishes cooked in this oil also was beived to bring one closer to Nirvana :-)

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: jumpingmonk

                      Rice bran oil is also very neutral with a high smoke point.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        rice bran oil is used in every restaurant ive worked at. high smoke point so they love it in the deep fat fryers (fryolater fans holler!!!). at home tho, i use solely extra virgin raw, unprocessed coconut oil for all my sauteing since it does NOT get all messed up when heated. i love olive oil for all salad dressings but i try to avoid heating it since ive read that once heated, olive oil is not so good for you anymore:)

                        1. re: ben61820

                          To the camellia oil poster - how do you find it inexpensively to cook with?! It's interesting to me that camellia, rice bran and olive oils all have applications in skin care and are highly regarded.

                          My favorite oils for cooking depend on what's being cooked... virgin coconut oil (that actually has some coconut scent/taste going on) yields a gorgeous hint of flavor and texture somehow. Love it for cookies etc. Peanut oil (again, some organic kind where you actually get a whiff of peanuts) goes nicely in some recipes where the idea of peanuts wouldn't be offputting.

                          1. re: Cinnamon

                            Yes, and peanut oil is not used in our household because of a strong aversion to peanuts.

                            1. re: Cinnamon

                              I'm not sure about inexpenively but I usually just use the kind Republic of Tea sells. Proably the easiest way is to simply order it from them though I have bumped into it being sold at some Chef Cental and Whole foods stores. (though not the latter recently). While I won't claim its inexpensive its seems no more to me than many kinds of olive oil.

                        2. re: jumpingmonk

                          Asian markets often sell it too. It can handle heat somewhat well, but does go rancid. Look for 茶油. There are both more lightly flavored versions and stronger flavored ones. Fuchsia Dunlop wrote an interesting piece about production of it -- I would bet that a lot of stuff on the market may not be that trustworthy.

                        3. I use peanut oil for high-heat cooking, lard which I render myself for most other frying, olive oil and butter for flavor.

                          1. It might be easier to list the fats and oils I don't purchase and avoid consuming:

                            Canola (see above)
                            Cotton seed
                            Artificially hydrogenated fats (aka transfats)

                            There are probably others, but those are the ones that are likely to be seen on ingredient labels. Otherwise, I think most fats and oils have their place.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              Thanks, Ruth. Might as well, since we have so many other great alternatives.

                              For what it's worth (I'm not afraid), canola is genetically modified in the U.S. and so are soybeans, corn, and yes, cotton.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                Agree with this list. Generic "vegetable oil" is out in my household too.

                                That being said I *love* to cook in butter!

                              2. Lard all the way. I render my own. Love the depth of flavor it gives foods on cold days. Apples sauteed in lard is just this side of heaven.

                                1. I use butter and olive oil for cooking, peanut oil for deep frying, lard for pastries, and I keep a neutral oil (right now it's a mazola corn/canola blend) on hand for mayonnaises and stuff like that, but it doesn't get used nearly as often as the others. And of course sesame, walnut, truffle, chili oils, for seasoning purposes.

                                  I don't there is any one "best" oil -- it all depends on what you are doing.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: AnnaEA

                                    Of course. I should have included "cooking purpose" on the considerations list.

                                    This question arose out of my daily needs. I haven't really given my canola oil much thought. But today Ruth (and Karl S) convinced me to switch to grapeseed oil. Not a traumatic change, an easy one actually - but for the "better", I am hoping.

                                  2. Other oils:

                                    Flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, pine nut oil, macadamia oil, hemp seed oil (?), pomegranate seed oil, rose hip oil, mustard seed oil (related to canola??)

                                    1. Olive oil for everything except stir frying or deep frying then I use Peanut Oil.Peanut Oils good for almost anything.

                                      1. The oil with the highest smoke point? On this list, avocado oil. Oil heated beyond the smoke point is known to be carcinogenic.

                                        (Data from Cooking for Engineers)

                                        Unrefined canola oil 225°F 107°C
                                        Unrefined flaxseed oil 225°F 107°C
                                        Unrefined safflower oil 225°F 107°C
                                        Unrefined sunflower oil 225°F 107°C
                                        Unrefined corn oil 320°F 160°C
                                        Unrefined high-oleic sunflower oil 320°F 160°C
                                        Extra virgin olive oil 320°F 160°C
                                        Unrefined peanut oil 320°F 160°C
                                        Semirefined safflower oil 320°F 160°C
                                        Unrefined soy oil 320°F 160°C
                                        Unrefined walnut oil 320°F 160°C
                                        Hemp seed oil 330°F 165°C
                                        Butter 350°F 177°C
                                        Semirefined canola oil 350°F 177°C
                                        Coconut oil 350°F 177°C
                                        Unrefined sesame oil 350°F 177°C
                                        Semirefined soy oil 350°F 177°C
                                        Vegetable shortening 360°F 182°C
                                        Lard 370°F 182°C
                                        Macadamia nut oil 390°F 199°C
                                        Refined canola oil 400°F 204°C
                                        Semirefined walnut oil 400°F 204°C
                                        High quality (low acidity) extra virgin olive oil 405°F 207°C
                                        Sesame oil 410°F 210°C
                                        Cottonseed oil 420°F 216°C
                                        Grapeseed oil 420°F 216°C
                                        Virgin olive oil 420°F 216°C
                                        Almond oil 420°F 216°C
                                        Hazelnut oil 430°F 221°C
                                        Peanut oil 440°F 227°C
                                        Sunflower oil 440°F 227°C
                                        Refined corn oil 450°F 232°C
                                        Refined high-oleic sunflower oil 450°F 232°C
                                        Refined peanut oil 450°F 232°C
                                        Refined Safflower oil 450°F 232°C
                                        Semirefined sesame oil 450°F 232°C
                                        Refined soy oil 450°F 232°C
                                        Semirefined sunflower oil 450°F 232°C
                                        Olive pomace oil 460°F 238°C
                                        Extra light olive oil 468°F 242°C
                                        Soybean oil 495°F 257°C
                                        Safflower oil 510°F 266°C
                                        Avocado oil 520°F 271°C

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: grocerytrekker

                                          Great list. Light olive oil is great for deep frying. I live in Spain and everyone uses it for deep frying--here I've never once heard this nonsense that it can't be used for high heat. It makes the best potato chips, french fries, fried seafood, stir fries, etc. I have no idea why people in the US persist in believing that olive oil has a low smoke point. Unfortunately, light olive oil isn't really imported and olive oil in general is riduculously overpriced in the US due to low consumption.

                                          I use olive oil (different varieties for different uses) for virtually everything now.

                                        2. my pop likes using macadamia nut oil for pretty much everything. ive read differing opinions on this. it does NOT taste of macadamia nuts btw. unfortunate tho it may be. also, one interesting thing to note on tastes of these oils: most do NOT taste of their source, like i just mentioned with mac nut oil. however, coconut oil is great cuz it DOES totally and completely taste like coconuts. more so even than olive oil tastes of olives. make sure, if you do go the coconut oil route tho, that it is totally and completely unrefined and solid at 76 degrees, etc.

                                          1. some health considerations:

                                            The only oils that do not produce free-radicals (little molecules that wreak havoc on a cellular level) when heated are saturated fats. so stick with coconut oil and butter if you are worried about a legitimate health concern.
                                            I don't think cholesterol or high fat content are a legitimate health concern UNLESS you you eat too much, a bad habit in the US of course, but not for all of us.

                                            in terms of free radicals, poly'unsaturated fats will produce the most, so don't cook with them by rule if you can get away with it. use them where you can, but the problem is in the heating.

                                            mono-unsaturateds are in the middle here, olive oil is one of the great healthy substances, it can help you lower unneeded cholesterol, along with a host of other benefits, but it is best in cold dishes and dressings. Canola is officially mono-un, but it, like margarine is most definitely of the devil (if one exists) STAY AWAY FROM THESE, for the good of all mankind.

                                            that all said, I love EVOO, for everything. I will continue to use it and only it.

                                            somebody back there mentioned roasted sesame oil - 2 things on that - roasting sesame oil is a terrible idea, the free radical action created is tremendous from sesame oil. additionally, in terms of chinese herbal medicine, sesame oil should always be used sparingly, it is very powerful, has a warming effect. In southern chinese cooking (in which i have only dabbled) you do not cook sesame oil, you add it at the end of the process, as a garnish.
                                            (and they didn't know anything about free radicals when they came up with that)

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: luke643

                                              Would like to 2nd everything said here.

                                              1. re: luke643

                                                Edit: didn't realize this was a 4 year old thread...

                                                1. re: mateo21

                                                  Nor did I until you pointed it out. But there's nothing time-sensitive in it, so no harm done in reviving it.

                                              2. just curious, exactly what is evil about canola oil? no rants please, i want some facts. yes i understand it has erucic acid (albeit in low concentrations) but what else is wrong with it? also doesn't thomas keller of french laundry use it? for those of you who say you can taste its evil, can you taste the canola oil in his food? thx

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: choctastic

                                                  I've looked into it recently because I've heard stories about it. The original rapeseed oil wasn't safe for consumption because of erucuc acid but it's been bred so that it is safe and produced predominantly by Canada now (hence Canada oil=canola). It's been used in Europe for much longer. Canola is often genetically modified (not bred but changed in labs), but you can get around it by buying organic. There are people who claim it tastes bad. Personally, I'll stick mostly with olive oil but won't completely avoid organic canola like I do trans fats.

                                                2. Some of the posts went through the basics.
                                                  i don't know enough to say anything more then "better safe then sorry"
                                                  i don't like to eat anything that is so a)chemically processed and has so much b)corporate/governmental sponserhip.
                                                  it sounds to me as if the canadian government found a surplus of toxic oil and turned it into a (maybe) non toxic food product.
                                                  so, as it is the only other monounsaturated fat, i ask you, why the hell would you use it over EVOO??

                                                  that said, i don't eat keller's food, it is too damn expensive.

                                                  1. Speaking of cooking oils, what causes french fries to have a fishy taste?

                                                    7 Replies
                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                          So it's not because the oil is too old, or because they used the same frier for both fish and fries?

                                                          1. re: aynrandgirl

                                                            No - if you open a brand new bottle it was still have that odor. It's the nature of the oil and something many people find offensive.

                                                            1. re: sivyaleah

                                                              And I thought it was just me! For a long time I thought I was just imagining things or that my oil had gone off, but finally I decided that I didn't care how fabulous it was supposed to be, I wasn't going to use it anymore.

                                                              I think it's one of those things some people don't sense. I remember once my sister (who has an excellent palate) tried to convince me it was okay with a freshly opened bottle of high-grade canola oil (organic or natural or some such thing) and I still hated it. I wouldn't describe the flavor as fishy so much as rancid, but I don't like it.

                                                              A little in a prepared food doesn't bother me (and it's pretty hard to avoid completely), but I won't cook with it.

                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                  Me either. This is a bone of contention in my home as my partner really likes canola if it is non GMO, but I just don't like it. I have been buying different brands of grapeseed and there is finally one she will use regularly.

                                                        2. I do not use canola oil for the reasons already mentioned. I avoid most other vegetable oils if possible as well because I am learning a lot about the high eat, chemical, deodorizing processes they go through to be shelf stable.
                                                          I use coconut oil in small amounts (there is information out there about it being good for you despite it being saturated fat, because it is a medium-chain saturated fat that your body metabolizes well and it has other benefits) and it has a hight smoke point. Tastes good with popcorn too.
                                                          I use cold-pressed EVOO for most other things (mostly for salad dressings, light frying, etc.).
                                                          A little bit of butter won't hurt you. Ghee has a higher smoke point than regular butter.

                                                          1. Olive oil for nearly all sauteeing purposes and salad dressings.
                                                            I try not to use too much butter because of health issues, but I must use it for eggs (unless it's a frittata) - nothing else tastes right to me for this one kind of food and believe me, I've tried. Oh and for baking, of course.
                                                            Peanut oil for deep frying/stir frying.
                                                            I like ghee too, but don't use it too much anymore.
                                                            I avoid canola oil - aside from all the aforementioned reasons, it also smells disgusting when heated, like rotten fish. My husband really dislikes this even more than I do, since he hates seafood. It really stinks up the house and no matter what I do, I just can't get the smell out for days.

                                                            1. I use olive oil for most things, and canola oil when I want a more flavourless oil.

                                                              I posted this link above, but I'll post 'er again here:


                                                              A little scientific background.....canola oil has been approved in Canada since the 70s and in the US since 1984....

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: mrbunsrocks

                                                                Just because it has been approved doesn't mean it's any good for you in the end. May even be the reason your bunny has that funny hair-do :-) Animal testing for canola oil?

                                                                (I'm sorry - I couldn't resist)

                                                                1. re: sivyaleah

                                                                  I agree - just because something has been approved, not to mention something that is a huge export for Canada, doesn't mean it's good for you.

                                                              2. A few more -

                                                                Marrow seed oil ( = pumpkin seed oil?)
                                                                Poppy seed oil (huile blanche)

                                                                Among all the oils we mentioned, there are quite a few which would go rancid quickly, particularly walnut oil.

                                                                One particular oil which concerned me while I was reading about it was paraffin oil - wax, I guess- which is a hydrocarbon used to coat fruit, etc. It "must never be heated", according to Larousse. Don't we unknowingly add these to hot desserts all the time?

                                                                1. peanut ......for high heat..saute
                                                                  lard ....for frying
                                                                  olive oil/butter ....max flavor

                                                                  1. Grocerytrekker, if there is unrefined safflower oil (225 F), and refined safflower oil (450 F), what is safflower oil (510 F)?

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. Interesting that very few people have mentioned butter.

                                                                      I know it is probably not the best for the waistline, but it really is very important for the flavour in so much cooking (and I think most would be shocked how much butter goes in to a restaurant's cooking - creamy mash? I have heard some chefs using 1:1:1 - one part potato, one part butter, one part cream!).

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: pj26

                                                                        When it comes to the waistline, fat is fat -- it has the same number of calories. Actually, butter has slightly fewer calories per tablespoon because it's only about 80 percent fat, with some milk solids and water, while a tablespoon of oil is 100 percent fat.

                                                                        I use butter for all my baking and a lot of my cooking. I'm just not convinced that changing the type of fat (saturated, monounsaturated, high in omega 3 or omega 6, blah, blah) I use is anywhere near as important to my health as the amount of fat I use.

                                                                      2. In this house:

                                                                        Olive oil and/or butter for medium temperature sauteing.
                                                                        Grapeseed oil for high heat frying where I want a neutral flavor profile.
                                                                        Peanut oil for deep frying and dishes where I want that extra flavor jolt like chili.
                                                                        Duck fat for cabbage and potato dishes.
                                                                        Bacon fat for eggs (and I'd use it for more things if I had more of it, but I don't eat a lot of bacon).
                                                                        Sesame oils (plain, toasted, and hot chili) for flavoring.

                                                                        1. this thread may be 4 years old, but I know after reading this I'll never use canola oil again. Thanks everyone.

                                                                          I use olive oil/butter usually; I don't deep fry so no peanut oil; don't bake so no lard.

                                                                          1. Great post! For my two cents: I am Italian and in my parents' family we did everything with olive oil and butter, except deep-frying (corn oil marked for frying). I believe that was just because deep-frying in olive oil would bankrupt us? :-) My wife's family is Chinese and they do soybean and peanut (high smoke point - good for high heat cooking in a wok). But peanut is expensive too.

                                                                            In Italy you do find rapeseed oil but I've never seen anyone using it - perhaps for cheap frying? There was a time when some guy "discovered" that you can put it in a diesel engine instead of diesel fuel, so people started buying like crazy and the world smelled like french fries. (It's amazing what a diesel engine will take). But it is a horrible thing to do because it's much more expensive than diesel - hence probably more precious, in some economic sense - but the reason it's cheaper than diesel is simply that in Italy fuel taxes are sky-high so if you buy it in a supermarket it's not taxed as fuel. The government was angry but what can you do. They instructed policemen to use their sense of smell to stop cars who made illegal use of rapeseed oil and ask them to prove that they paid the fuel tax on it, or get fines. You can imagine how scared people were. But as the fad waned, only some crackpots continue using it a (relatively undetactable) 50/50 mix to save a few pennies. One of these I know, and he swears it keeps the pipes clean. Anyway, I get sidetracked.

                                                                            As for butter's unhealthiness - I have to say, while I believe in healthy eating, I think the link between cholesterol and death is very scientifically tenuous. I am not a doctor and I like to talk, so take this as a provocation. But I can read a medicine paper and the evidence tells me that if I used butter instead of olive oil my whole life, my life would be in expectation 0.1% shorter, or something. Buh! (This without keeping into account free radicals and all that other esoteric stuff that I know nothing about). Just don't use too much fat, butter or else! And go jogging!

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: mlandoni

                                                                              It's funny you say that about cholesterol. There was a doctor I saw a couple times before he left my group that said the link between cholesterol and heart attacks was unproved and did not believe in cholesterol medicine.

                                                                            2. I use peanut oil for deep frying/frying/sauteing and browning meats. For everything else I use an olive oil like, olio, Kailus or Santa Clara depending on the dish.

                                                                              1. I've been looking a long time and have found the perfect oil. It is Rice Bran Oil. Smoke point around 450 and is non-GMO, not hydrogenated either.
                                                                                Tasts great and is healthy.

                                                                                I found it at Hong Kong Supermarket on Jimmy Carter in Norcross, GA (near Atlanta).
                                                                                I'm a happy man.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: Jack Chambles

                                                                                  Trader Joe's is also selling rice bran oil for a very reasonable price.