Taste of Home
Fried shrimp, deep-fried turkey, French fries, tempura veggies, crispy fried chicken—it’s all good, right? Of course it is! But how do we choose the right oil to perfect all these delicious goodies? The cooking oil aisle at the grocery store presents a wide variety, but do different oils affect the taste of foods cooked in them? Do they react differently to the higher temperatures needed for frying? Let’s find out.
All About Smoke Point
First things first: “Smoke point” is the temperature at which the oil begins to break down and, yep, begin smoking. This can give the oil an unpleasant taste and spoil the flavor of the foods you cook in it. Not to mention setting your smoke detector off and putting you in panic mode.
The Best Oil for Frying
Refined oils can have a higher smoke point and therefore are best for higher-temperature pan- and deep-frying. This group includes
- Peanut oil
- Soybean oil
- Vegetable oil
- Safflower oil
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Sunflower oil
Battered fish, shrimp, tempura vegetables, and other breaded deep-fried foods require a temperature of 350-375° to maintain a crispy coating without absorbing the oil and becoming greasy. For these foods, you’ll want to select one of these oils with a high smoke point to maintain quality and flavor. Canola oil is always a good choice because of its neutral flavor and affordability, particularly if you are preparing large amounts of food.
What About the Other Oils?
Pressed oils like extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and nut oils are made by squeezing the oil from these luscious foods and are therefore excellent for dishes where robust flavor is desired. It varies by specific oil, but pressed oils can have a lower smoke point—making them more apt for quick and flavorful saute. Keep an eye on your pan to make sure the oil doesn’t smoke.
These oils can be on the pricier side, too, so you might want to save them for applications where you’ll really taste them, as in salad dressings, drizzling and for dipping your home-crafted Italian bread sticks as a side dish.
Butter also has a low smoke point (and inimitable flavor) that makes it so ideal for baking. If you really want a buttery flavor in your saute, mix it with a higher-smoke point oil, or melt some butter into your dish once it’s finished cooking. For more info on smoke points of common cooking oils, bookmark this guide.