Tips and techniques

Cooking oils: what are the differences?

Not all cooking oils were created equal. Does coconut oil have more health benefits that extra virgin olive oil? Are you using oil correctly? Let's break it down.
Cooking oils

Creating a dish that’s well-balanced is no easy task, and often comes down to the incorrect use of the most simple elements. So when you heat up that pan or dress your salad, what oil do you use? Do you get creative with chili oil, or do you prefer the coconut oil trend?

Oils are fats that remain liquid at room temperature. They are extracted either from seeds (no, not the chia seeds we all seem to be obsessed with right now), nuts, or fruit, by crushing and pressing or by using heat or chemicals.

Natural oils can be divided into three main groups – saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. All vegetable oils are cholesterol-free as they are derived from plants.

Different oils have different uses. High-quality oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, lose their flavour when heated and are much better used cold as a dressing, while oils like canola oil thrive at a higher temperature and are ideal for frying.


We all love a good smashed avo on toast, but the avocado has more than one use. This oil has a light, unique flavour and is great for cooking or for dressings. It has an attractive vivid green colour and is a good source of healthy monounsaturated fats


This oil is made from rapeseeds, and has a bland flavour, making it perfect for cooking. This common oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, the same stuff that makes salmon good for you, and is important for cardiovascular health.

Olive oil cake with blueberries

Is there anything olive oil can’t do? Try this dairy-free olive oil cake with blueberries to find out.


It has become popular in the past couple of years, particularly with the rise of paleo and sugar-free diets. There is still some uncertainty surrounding coconut oil, as it falls into the ‘saturated’ fat category, although it has been linked to speeding up metabolism and is easily digested. Coconut oil has a high smoke point, making it great for baking and frying. It can tend to have a strong coconut flavour, but there are more subtly-flavoured varieties.


Grape seed oil is a by-product of the wine making industry, but don’t worry, you don’t have to know anything about wine to understand it. The oil is pale in colour with a high smoke point, making it excellent for deep frying. Its subtle flavour makes it well suited for all types of cooking.


Probably the most well-know, olive oil is a highly monounsaturated oil, popular for cooking and dressings. It generally comes in three types – extra virgin (first press with perfect flavour, colour and aroma), virgin (a blend of extra virgin and refined oils) and olive (a more refined oil great for cooking).


Rice Bran oil is 100 per cent natural and cholesterol free. It contains high levels of vitamin E and lecithin, antioxidants proven to reduce the risk of cancer. Rice Bran Oil has a high smoke point making it perfect for cooking at high temperatures. With a bland flavour, it’s excellent for all types of cooking.


This oil is often used sparingly within cooking, due to its strong flavour. It is a common ingredient in Asian stir-fries. It varies in colour from light to dark – the darker the oil the stronger the flavour.


When purchasing oils, the term ‘light’ does not refer to the number of kilojoules within a bottle, but rather the intensity of flavour.

Oil is fat, which means the only way to get an oil that’s lower in fat is to buy the smaller bottle!

Always store oils in a cool, dry place as light and heat causes them to lose colour and flavour. If stored in the fridge, some oils like coconut will solidify.

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