Cooking With Vegetable Oil: The Dos and Don’ts

When cooking with vegetable oil, it can be helpful to know the vegetable from the oil was derived. The typical grocery store vegetable oil is sometimes a blend of assorted vegetable oils, but at other times it will be one type of oil. For example, vegetable oil is often 100 percent soybean oil. The word “vegetable” is used so that manufacturers don’t have to separately identify which oils go into the blend. The most accurate definition of vegetable oil is that it is an oil derived from seeds, nuts, or fruits.

While any oil derived from a plant meets the technical definition (including coconut and olive oils) most grocery store vegetable oil blends consist mainly of soybean oil and sometimes corn oil. Sometimes canola oil will be included. To get the most benefit from vegetable oil, keep the dos and don’t below in mind when using it.

Do pay attention to the smoke point.

Vegetable oil does have a high smoke point, which means that you can use it to cook at high temperatures. It is ideal for stir-fries and deep-frying. The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil starts to burn and degenerate to produce dangerous compounds. Vegetable oil’s smoke point will vary depending on which oils are used in the blend. Usually, it will be somewhere between 400 and 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232.22 °C). The oil blend that you will see labeled as vegetable oil in your grocery store will have a high smoke point, but not as high as that of avocado oil, which is over 500 degrees.

Do be aware of vegetable oil’s neutral flavor.

Vegetable oil is not what you should use if you want an oil that will enhance the taste of your food. The flavor is meant to be understated to ensure that it does not interfere with the flavors of ingredients. The mild flavor is one of the factors that makes vegetable oil such a versatile cooking fat. While it can’t replace the flavors of oils like extra virgin olive oil, vegetable oil can provide the same kind of richness, and it can work in a wide variety of dishes.

Do store vegetable oil correctly.

Like all cooking oils, vegetable oil should be stored in a cool and dark spot to maximize its shelf life.

Do use vegetable oil if you are watching your budget.

In many parts of the world, the cheapest cooking oil option available will be a vegetable oil blend.

Don’t use vegetable oil for its nutritional value.

Vegetable oil blends can have nutrients based on the constituent oils but are usually not as good for you as oils like extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil.

Don’t use vegetable oils to improve health.

Even though it has been recommended as a healthy substitute for saturated fat, more recent studies show that may not be the case. Using vegetable oil rich in linoleic acid as frying oil may increase your risk of death from heart disease, even though it may lower your cholesterol levels in the short term.

Vegetable oils are a rich source of omega-6 fatty acids. While these acids are essential, they are already quite plentiful in Western diets. If you get too many of them they can cause some serious health issues. Furthermore, when vegetable oil has been heated, it produces substances associated with Alzheimer’s disease.