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.
Smoke point: 199-243°C
Best for: Dressings and roasting
SL recommends: Felippo Berio Olive Oil, £5.95
Tapping into the nation’s love of all things avocado, think of this relatively new contender on the market as an unrefined, buttery green oil made from freshly ripened avocado flesh. It has a high smoke point, which makes it perfect for oven cooking, gentle heating and frying on a high heat. It also tastes good combined with lemon juice and drizzled over salads and vegetables, and works well with seafood. Avocado oil is also high in vitamin E, omega-9 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats.
Smoke point: 255°C
Best for: High-heat cooking and finishing
SL recommends: Hunter & Gather Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Avocado Oil, £6.29
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
High-grade extra virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing of olive oil, which gives it that pure, flavoursome taste. Pale green in colour, extra virgin olive oil is unrefined and cold-pressed, which means heat and chemicals aren’t 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.
Smoke point: 207ºC
Best for: Drizzling and baking
SL recommends: Belazu Verdemanda Extra Virgin Olive Oil, £14
Butter has been demonised due to its saturated fat content, but it’s actually heavily processed margarines that are bad for you. In fact, butter contains vitamins A, E and K2, and is also rich in the fatty acids conjugated linoleic acid and butyrate, both of which have health benefits. When it comes to cooking, butter is a baking and pastry staple. It also pairs really well with egg dishes – think omelettes, scrambled eggs and frittatas – and is an essential component in everything from silky sauces to mashed potatoes.
Smoke point: 150°C
Best for: Baking and adding sheen to sauces
SL recommends: Daylesford Organic Unsalted Butter, £3.49
These old-school cooking fats aren’t as retro as you might think. While we all know that goose fat makes the best roast potatoes and beef fat (dripping) creates the crispest chips, pork fat (lard) probably gets an unfair rap. In fact, homemade lard is more unprocessed than some of the oils on this list, as it’s just fat left over from cooking pork, and when used in moderation isn’t the health no-no you might expect. Use a spoonful in homemade soups, risottos and omelettes for an extra silkiness and depth of flavour.
Smoke point: 190°C
Best for: Triple-cooked chips and roast potatoes
SL recommends: Free-Range Goose Fat, £3
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 it’s one of the most suitable oils for deep-frying.
Smoke point: 117°C
Best for: Deep frying, dressings and stir-fries
SL recommends: Clearspring Organic Sesame Oil, £11.39
Made by pressing dried coconut flesh, coconut oil becomes opaque as it solidifies. To use it, 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.
Smoke point: 232°C
Best for: Baking and frying
SL recommends: Vita Coco Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, £8.99
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.
Smoke point: 204°C
Best for: Roasting
SL recommends: Mellow Yellow Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil, £3.50
Light and pale yellow in colour, vitamin E and omega-3-rich sunflower oil is made from pressed sunflower seeds and is a 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.
Smoke point: 232°C
Best for: Low-temperature cooking
SL recommends: Clearspring Organic Sunflower Oil, £3.49
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.
Smoke point: 232°C
Best for: High-heat cooking and Asian dishes
SL recommends: Cooks & Co Roasted Peanut Oil, £4.79