Everything You Need To Know About Cooking Oils

Everything You Need To Know About Cooking Oils

Gone are the days when a big plastic bottle of vegetable oil was the home cook’s fat of choice. Today, coconut, hemp seed and avocado oils are becoming kitchen-cupboard essentials. But which is easiest to grill with? And which makes the tastiest salad dressings? Here are ten of the best cooking oils – and what to use them for…


A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is made from pressing whole fresh olives. Produced mainly in Italy, France, Spain and Greece, olive oil is similar to wine in that it differs depending on climate, terroir and seasons. A versatile all-rounder, peppery olive oil is excellent for sautéing, grilling and roasting or as a base for sauces. Its flavour profile works well with everything from meat and poultry to vegetables. Truly a cupboard essential.

SL Recommends: Felippo Berrio Olive Oil, £5.95 

BEST FOR TASTE: Extra Virgin Olive Oil

High-grade extra virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing of olive oil. This gives extra virgin olive oil its pure, flavoursome taste. Pale green in colour, extra virgin olive oil is unrefined and cold-pressed, which means heat and chemicals are not used to extract the oil, so the flavour isn’t compromised. Its peppery, slightly bitter taste makes it a good companion for salad dressings, marinades and pasta, or served solo as a dip for bread. An extra plus: it’s healthy, as it’s high in monounsaturated fat.

SL Recommends: Farchioni Il Casolare Extra Virgin Olive OIive, £7.60


Tapping into the nation’s love of all things avocado, this is a relatively new contender on the market. This buttery green oil is unrefined and made from freshly ripened avocado flesh. It has a high smoke point of 255°C, which makes it perfect for oven cooking, gentle heating and frying on a high heat. It also tastes excellent combined with lemon juice and drizzled over salads and vegetables, and works well with seafood. Avocado oil is high in vitamin E, omega-9 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats.

SL Recommends: Hunter & Gather Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Avacado Oil, £6.29


Sesame oil is made from sesame seeds, one of the first crops to be cultivated for oil. A fragrant oil, it has a slightly sweet, nutty taste and is a favourite in Asian cooking because of its flavour-enhancing properties. This is the oil to reach for if you’re whipping up a stir-fry or egg-fried rice, but it’s also delicious in salad dressings and vinaigrettes. Light sesame oil has a very high smoke point, so is one of the most suitable oils for deep-frying.

SL Recommends: Lee Kum Kee Pure Seasme Oil, £2.10

BEST FOR MARINADES: Toasted Seasame Oil

This flavourful oil is made from sesame seeds which have been toasted and cold pressed to create a delicate, but deeply fragrant oil. This oil works well when added to sauces, seasonings and stir-fries at the last minute, but isn’t suitable for frying. The distinctive nutty flavour and aroma adds an oriental note to sautéed vegetables, dips, dressings, marinades and vinaigrettes. We like it lightly splashed over cooked vegetables such as green beans or tenderstem broccoli. Stir into hummus for an extra savoury hit.

SL Recommends: Clearspring Toasted Seasame Oil, £3.49 

BEST FOR FRYING: Sunflower Oil

Light and pale yellow in colour, vitamin E and omega-3-rich sunflower oil is made from pressed sunflower seeds and is a very good all-rounder due to its subtle flavour. It’s the one to use when frying or baking (if a recipe requires oil instead of butter) and is key if you like to make your own mayonnaise. Light in taste, sunflower oil is ideal for salad dressings, dips and low-temperature cooking.

SL Recommends: Clearspring Organic Sunflower Oil, £3.95


Bright yellow rapeseeds produce a pure oil that’s rich in omega-3 and typically has half the saturated fat of traditional olive oil. Often seen as a healthy choice – it’s the oil used in Fry Light’s One-Cal Spray – rapeseed oil offers a nutty taste and is good for cooking and baking with. Another popular choice for making mayonnaise, rapeseed oil is also one of the best fats for getting a crispy finish – particularly on roast potatoes and meats.

SL Recommends: Mellow Yellow Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil 


This clear oil is made by pressing specially grown peanuts. Widely known as groundnut oil, peanut oil has a thinner pouring consistency than most oils and a neutral flavour. This is a great choice for grilling with, as it has a high heat resistance, so doesn’t burn easily. Popular in everyday Chinese and Indian cooking, it also works well in salad dressings, mayonnaise and dips. Opt for roasted peanut oil if you’re after a strong nutty flavour – like toasted sesame oil, this is best drizzled over as your dish is served.

SL Recommends: Cooks & Co Roasted Peanut Oil, £4.79


Not to be confused with CBD oil, hemp seed oil is a multipurpose cooking oil that’s high in omega-3, omega-6 and vitamin D. Easily digestible, it’s a great way to get your essential fatty acid requirements as it’s low in saturated fat and rich in polyunsaturated fat. Not suitable for frying, rich-green hemp seed oil works well in salad dressings or drizzled over savoury dishes.

SL Recommends: Biona Organic Hemp Seed Oil, £6.99 


Made by pressing dried coconut flesh, coconut oil becomes opaque as it solidifies. To use, gently warm the hard oil to return it to its liquid state. Coconut oil doesn’t taste anywhere near as sweet as you’d expect, however it does work really well when baking or making confectionery. It’s also a good choice for South Indian-style curries, cooking and frying. Best of all, it doubles up as an excellent overnight moisturiser and hair conditioner.

SL Recommends: Vita Coco Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, £4

Fashion. Beauty. Culture. Life. Home
Delivered to your inbox, daily