Cooking Oils Guide

All oils have something to offer. Choose according to your needs and preferences.

A well-stocked kitchen includes a variety of different oils chosen for characteristics like cost, smoke point, nutritional profile and culinary uses. Regardless of which cooking oil you select, be proud of choosing a liquid over a solid fat, such as shortening or butter. It’s a fairly safe bet that by doing so you avoid saturated animal fats and trans fats, the undeniable nutritional bad guys. Numerous studies confirm that high intakes of saturated fats and trans fats cause cholesterol and heart-disease risk to rise—and that when unsaturated fats replace saturated fats in the diet, those risks are largely averted. Use this guide to pick the right oil for your cooking and health needs.

Our Top 3 Picks

If you have room in your pantry and a wallet for only 3 oils, this trio offers health and versatility.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

This flavorful, heart-healthy oil is unrefined thus high in antioxidants and polyphenols that are a tonic to cardiovascular health. Less expensive, but so-called "pure" olive oil (not extra-virgin) is refined and more tolerant to heat but also less nutrient-dense. Don't bother with "light" olive oil; it has virtually no character and even fewer polyphenols. Use extra-virgin in low-heat cooking, baking and dressings.

Canola Oil

High in omega-3s, this practical bland oil with a relatively high smoke point can be used for sautéing and baking. Most canola oil is highly refined to extract as much oil as possible from the seed. The resulting inexpensive version has a long shelf life. Some consumers choose to pay more for less refined organic canola oil. The organic designation guarantees that the seed was not from genetically modified plants.

Walnut Oil

This specialty oil sports a higher price tag, but along with its rich, nutty flavor comes omega-3s and vitamin E. Close runners-up in this category include toasted sesame, pumpkinseed and almond oils. We chose walnut as a top pick for its relatively long shelf life: 3 months when refrigerated. Use it to dress salads, especially those containing flavorful cheese and nuts.

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