How to: Choose the Right Cooking Oil

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Sear Your Steak with… 

Avocado oil

The key to frying a perfect steak is to heat the pan till it starts to smoke and then add the oil, swiftly followed by the meat. But with most oils, the smoke point – the heat at which they start to degrade and turn carcinogenic – will already have been breached by the time the oil hits the pan. The solution? Use liquid avocado, which tops the smoke point table with a furnace-proof upper limit of 270°C, while also providing a bonus hit of skin-improving vitamin E.

Stir-Fry with…

Coconut oil

This oil consists almost entirely of medium-chain triglycerides – fatty acids that go straight from the digestive tract to the liver, where they’re turned into instant energy. As a bonus, over 90% of these are saturated, which makes it highly resistant to heat and therefore ideal for everyday frying. Alternatively, for an energy-enhancing morning brew, add a teaspoonful to a strong black coffee.

Dress Your Salad with…

Extra virgin olive oil

Contrary to popular belief - this is a poor option for frying, thanks to its relatively low smoke point of around 180°C. Instead, harness its cholesterol-balancing powers as a dressing for a Mediterranean salad – think spinach leaves, olives, sundried tomatoes and mozzarella. And yes, it’s definitely worth shelling out extra for the extra virgin variety, because it’s minimally processed within half an hour of being picked, whereas any other form is likely to have seen heavy and protracted processing. Check the bottle for a harvest date – freshness brings more nutrients and a superior taste, so an oil produced within the past year is preferable.

Drizzle Your Pasta with…

Pumpkin seed oil

An intense, nutty taste makes this oil – a speciality of south-eastern Europe – an ideal topping for rich main dishes and even desserts such as ice cream. It’s cost-effective too (despite the high bottle price) because a little goes a long way, while its extremely high levels of zinc will help to keep your immune system topped up through the winter months.

Spike Your Smoothie with…

Cod liver oil

Let’s be honest, no-one likes the fishy taste of cod liver oil. But given its high levels of recovery-enhancing omega 3 fatty acids, adding it to your diet is definitely worth the stomach-turning effort. Our advice: mix a teaspoonful of the pongy liquid with a fresh smoothie made from mildly acidic fruit – an apple, a pear and a handful of berries – to balance and mask its flavour.

One to Avoid...

Sunflower oil

It might be cheap and widely available, but a low smoke point and an unhealthy ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids – which contributes to a variety of diseases – negate any health benefits this oil offers.

Ben Ince

Between 2010 and 2016, Ben was the deputy editor of Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Ben also contributed exclusive features to Coach on topics such as football drills, triathlon training plans and healthy eating.