A guide to cooking with oils

With the range of oils now available, it can be hard to know which to use for what. Here’s our simple guide…

A guide to cooking with oils

Olive oil

A high mono-unsaturated fat content helps lower cholesterol. Olive oil’s distinctive flavour is perfect for Mediterranean dishes, salad dressings, drizzling over cooked fish, meat and vegetables and for dipping bread into. Specific flavours vary depending on the origin. Widely available from supermarkets and delis.

Pumpkin seed oil

This oil carries a wonderful aroma and taste of toasted pumpkin seeds; it’s high in essential fatty acids and vitamin E, and is often used to improve digestion and to soothe prostate, bladder and urinary tract problems in alternative medicine. Buy online from Porters Foods.

Rapeseed oil

This has the lowest saturated fat content of any oil and is rich in omega-3s and vitamin E. Its delicate flavour won’t overpower, and it’s good in cakes instead of butter. A high smoking point makes it a versatile cooking oil – and it’s home-grown. Widely available. Buy Mellow Yellow (above, as featured in delicious. magazine) form Sainsbury’s, Harvey Nichols, or online at Farrington Oils.

Sesame seed oil

Perfect for oriental cuisine, sprinkle it lightly over food just before serving, but avoid frying with it. Rich in vitamin E, it’s commonly used as a massage oil and is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are thought to help control blood pressure. Widely available, including in Asian supermarkets, or buy online at Spices of India.

Sunflower oil

This is a good source of vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids (but not omega-3). Its mild flavour makes it suitable for unobtrusive salad dressings, frying and general cooking. Widely available, or buy organic, online at Salisbury Health Foods.

Vegetable oil

This can be either a blend of oils (eg corn, soybean and sunflower) or it may be only one type of oil. It’s inexpensive, but has little taste or aroma, so use it for all-purpose baking, frying and sautéing, rather than as a condiment. Widely available.

Walnut oil

A source of omega-3 fatty acids, this is expensive and has a strong flavour so is best used as a condiment, rather than a cooking oil. Delicious drizzled over salads, fresh goat’s cheese and pear, or brushed on grilled poultry or fish. Found in supermarkets, delis, and buy organic online at Ethical Superstore.

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