Which Oil Do You Cook With?

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This is a question I get asked a lot – and when I tell people, they are always shocked and say “I thought olive oil was the best oil to cook with!”

Alas no… extra virgin olive oil is great to use as a dressing but you definitely shouldn’t be cooking with it!

With oil, it’s all about the smoke point and how high you can heat it before you damage the oil and change its molecular structure. Oils and fats with a low smoke point (such as olive oil) can be damaged very easily by heat and when heated past a particular temperature can become rancid and toxic. The heat oxidizes the oil and creates free radicals which damage our cells and DNA.

Smoke Points of Oils

The smoke point of oils and fats varies considerably so make sure that you choose wisely, dependent on how you’re cooking something i.e. lightly sautéing, frying etc.

Here are the smoke points of the most common oils and fats used.

Cooking Oils / Fats Smoke Point °C Smoke Point °F
Unrefined flaxseed oil 107°C 225°F
Extra virgin olive oil 160°C 320°F
Hemp seed oil 165°C 330°F
Butter 177°C 350°F
Coconut oil 177°C 350°F
Vegetable shortening 182°C 360°F
Macadamia nut oil 199°C 390°F
Refined canola oil 204°C 400°F
Sesame oil 210°C 410°F
Cottonseed oil 216°C 420°F
Grapeseed oil 216°C 420°F
Virgin olive oil 216°C 420°F
Almond oil 216°C 420°F
Hazelnut oil 221°C 430°F
Peanut oil 227°C 440°F
Sunflower oil 227°C 440°F
Refined corn oil 232°C 450°F
Palm oil 232°C 450°F
Extra light olive oil 242°C 468°F
Rice Bran Oil 254°C 490°F
Soybean oil 257°C 495°F
Refined Safflower oil 266°C 510°F
Avocado oil 271°C 520°F

Saturated Fat Vs Unsaturated Fat

The other important thing to know about about oils and fats when cooking is the type of fat it is. And what I mean by this is whether it’s a saturated or unsaturated fat. Saturated fats such as butter and coconut oil are much more ‘stable’ than unsaturated fats and this is due to their molecular structure. At room temperature, saturated fats are solid and when heated they become a liquid – there is no change in their structure. Unsaturated fats on the other hand have a different molecular structure and when heated these molecules can become damaged very easily.

Polyunsaturated oils such as canola, soybean and corn are the most sensitive of fats so you definitely don’t want to be cooking with them! Saturated fats and monounsaturated fats are much more resistant to heat and are therefore better to cook with.

Best oil to cook with

As you can see, the smoke point of oils and fats varies massively. The best oils and fats to cook with are as follows:

  • Coconut oil
  • Butter (preferably organic)
  • Avocado oil
  • Macadamia nut oil
  • Grapseed oil

Cooking Oils to Avoid

  • Olive oil (any type)
  • Canola (rapeseed) or soybean
  • Any vegetable oil including corn
  • Sunflower or safflower
  • Cottonseed oil

Also NEVER cook with flaxseed oil as this is a cold-pressed oil and should only be used as a salad dressing. It needs to be kept in a cool place, preferably the fridge.


Whichever oil or fat you choose to cook with, never heat it above its smoke point. If you accidently leave the frying pan on the stove and the oil starts to smoke slightly, just chuck it away as it’ll do your body no favours at all!

Hope you found this post useful – be sure to share it with friends especially if you know they love cooking with their olive oil :-)

Happy cooking!


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Michelle is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist, Reflexologist and Reiki practitioner who is passionate about living a holistic lifestyle and helping others to achieve their health goals. She is also a Jungle Body Dance Fitness Instructor, which not only keeps her fit but also helps her to inspire others to feel confident and get in shape.

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