Sorry, the Best Oil to Cook With Is Still Canola
Canola oil has gotten such a bad rap—here’s why you should ignore the haters and give it a try.
Canola is a go-to oil both in my kitchen and in our test kitchens at Cooking Light. We use it for (nearly) everything—to sauté, oven-fry, and even bake. I prefer other oils, like a high-quality olive, walnut, or sesame oil as a finishing oil—aka in a cold application like drizzling on salads or over cooked vegetables. But canola is king when it comes to heat-based applications because of its neutral taste and high smoke point (468F, the temperature at which your oil literally begins to smoke).
Why does smoke point matter? Well, when you cook an oil (or any fat, because they all have a smoke point) to or past its smoke point, it may taste rancid—and not only do any of the good-for-you compounds start to break down, but health-harming ones form, too.
Another reason to choose canola oil is that it’s one of the few oils rich in the omega-3 fat ALA (alpha linoleic acid). Omega-3s are important for many reasons—they’re good for your heart, brain, eyes, hair, skin, and are the structural material of virtually every cell in your body. And they also happen to be a type of fat that your body can’t make. Research shows canola oil may have heart healthy benefits itself: possibly helping to lower total and “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Another bonus of choosing canola oil? When you break down the fat profile, canola oil has only 7 percent saturated fat per tablespoon. That's lower than any other common cooking oil. It also has no cholesterol.
Still, despite these fab qualities, there are plenty of rumors swirling about the dangers of canola oil. Most of which are based on an incomplete understanding of the oil’s origins.
“Canola” is a contraction of Canada and ola, or oil—it was derived from rapeseed and rapeseed contains erucic acid, a type of fat linked to cardiovascular risks. But canola oil is nearly devoid of erucic acid after years of cross-breeding—the traditional way of combining preferred qualities from different breeds of plants, practiced for centuries.
So, don’t—or at least try not to—believe the fearmongering out there. Canola oil deserves a place in your pantry (as do some other key oils which I’ve waxed poetic about here).