A couple of years ago, if someone mentioned the term cooking oil, your mind would most likely stir up an image of greasy oil that seemed all parts unhealthy and unappealing (no offense to you, oil, everyone loves you). Fast forward a few years, and today, the words “cooking oil” do not bring to mind a cringing liquid but rather one that adds a premium yet delicious taste and aroma to our food.
If you haven’t guessed it already, there’s going to be a lot of spills ahead…well, at least a lot of informational spillage on cooking oils. And not to forget, along with a deep-dive into the plethora of oil variants available in the market that usually have the combined effect of mind-numbing yet simultaneously head-banging-into-wall-while-trying-to-pick-the-right-one.
Before you wade into the oily waters and receive a complete low-down on them oils, there is something else that you should get acquainted with: something that is going to come up frequently (more frequent than originally intended, apologies for that) in the article below. The “something” being referred to here is a “smoke point” – a point at which an oil begins to burn, releasing harmful chemicals, and ultimately, becoming unhealthy to consume. Baking in ovens naturally involves cooking at high degrees, and thus, you must keep the smoke point in mind while looking out for your preferred baking oil.
Now that this top-secret classified information has revealed itself to you, let’s not waste any more precious time and dive right into the oils:
1. Canola Oil
A popular favorite amongst bakers, canola oil possesses similar qualities to its sister oil, vegetable oil. It is neutral in flavor, adding no undesirable scent or taste to your foods, is easy on the pocket, and allows your cake’s flavor and ingredients to shine through. What more, it’s also very healthy! Studies show that canola oil contains the least amount of saturated fats compared to other vegetable oils. It is high in omega-3 content, Vitamin E, and doesn’t have any cholesterol either! Your takeaway from this is that if you are on the lookout for a guilt-free baking experience that somehow miraculously results in a delicious yet healthy cake, then go for canola oil.
2. Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oil comprises various plant-based oils such as canola, safflower, peanut, and soybean among others. It is the most trusted ingredient in baking after canola oil and here’s why: vegetable oil is neutral in flavor, affordable, and is super for moist baked goodies. Can’t believe that one oil can have so many superpowers? Well, it’s true.
Vegetable oil is very neutral in taste and hence, adds no additional unwanted flavor to your dish. It is relatively inexpensive compared to other oils in the market and won’t burn a hole in your pocket. It has a smoke point of about 400°F, making it suitable for oven-baked dishes. And if you like your cakes and baked goods to be as fluffy as a fluffy Pomeranian, then vegetable oil is the oil you should be putting your bets on.
3. Olive Oil
A healthy oil alternative that many of you may already be well-versed with is olive oil. The popularity of olive oil has grown tremendously over the years, and there are no surprises why. It is said to be one of the healthiest oils out there. Initially, the oil only appeared in its “extra-virgin” form, while on the contrary, today, there are many more options available in the market that you can pick as per your preference. Getting to what you love doing best (that’s right, baking!), extra-virgin olive oil may not be the right choice. It has a strong scent and flavor that can have a displeasing effect on your baked stuff. Instead, opt for light or extra-light olive oil that is said to be perfect for baking. It adds no flavor, has a high smoke point of about 460°F, and is healthy for the heart.
4. Coconut Oil
In recent times, coconut oil has grown to become a popular oil in baker’s kitchens. That is because of its high saturated fat content, making it an ideal choice for baking and frying, i.e., anything that requires high heat. With a high smoke point of 450°F, coconut oil is often recommended for baked dishes where vegan substitutes are needed. However, it does add a hint of coconut aroma and flavor to your baked goods, so make sure to add it only if you enjoy the sweet and exotic taste of coconuts.
5. Sunflower Oil
Unsaturated fats are good fats. Are you wondering why this utterly random piece of information made its way here? It is because sunflower oil contains unsaturated fats, making it a healthy choice for cooking up something yummy. It has a high smoke point of 450°F too, which makes it suitable for baking. And while it does have a nutty flavor and a less-than-subtle aroma, it tends to (surprisingly) complement most baked goods. If your recipe requires rapeseed, safflower, or corn oil, you can go for sunflower oil if that’s available in your kitchen!
6. Peanut Oil
True bakers will know that sweet cakes and cookies and muffins and pies aren’t the only things baked in an oven. Savory baked dishes are a hot favorite too, and if you’re wondering why they are suddenly being lauded, it is because of *quick drumrolls* – peanut oil! That’s right. Peanut oil, with its nutty yet mild flavor, is the perfect choice for baking salty and tangy foods (especially those with nuts). It is, in fact, one of the healthier cooking oils out there because of its high unsaturated fat content.
Well, that sums up all that you needed to know about the best cooking oils for your baking adventures. Remember, cooking is an experience, and experimenting with different oils for your different bakes can’t go too wrong – for the most delicious dishes tend to result from the most random of experiments. So, go ahead, seize the day (along with your preferred bottle of oil), and get baking!