The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Oils

Choosing Cooking Oils

Ever find yourself in this situation? We're here to help.
Ever find yourself in this situation? We're here to help.
Noel Hendrickson/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Knowing which cooking oils to use -- and when to use them -- can be tricky. Because heat is often involved, it's important to know the smoke point of the oil with which you're cooking. The smoke point refers to the temperature at which the oil begins to break down. After that, free radicals start to form and the risks to your health increase. So, staying below the smoke point is important. Extra virgin olive oil, for example, has a relatively low smoke point, and you shouldn't use it for, say, deep-frying. On the other hand, peanut oil has a smoke point of 440 degrees Fahrenheit, and it's much better suited for deep-frying. Oils prized for their flavor, such as walnut oil, are used less often for cooking and more frequently as a dressing; heat breaks down the more delicate flavors, so many foodies consider cooking with walnut oil to be a waste.

So, back to the big question: How does cooking oil affect your health? See the next page to learn which cooking oils mean trouble for your cholesterol.