Cooking Oils vs Finishing Oils: How to Make Sense of All the Different Oils Out There

Not all oils are created equal! Some are better for cooking and others should only be used as finishing oils. This post will give you all the info you need when deciding which oil to use for the dish you’re preparing.

There are a TON of different oils out there...some healthier than others. But which ones are good to use for cooking vs. use in salad dressing or as finishing oils? I am answering all of your oil related questions today!

Since olive oil is touted as a “healthy oil”, most people assume that you should use it for everything….sautéing, frying, marinading, baking, and finishing off dishes. But the truth is olive oil has a low smoke point and loses its flavor and health benefits when used to cook at too high of a temperature. Thus, it should be reserved for dressings and finishings. And believe it or not, this is the case for A LOT of oils that people generally think are okay to use for cooking.

Here’s a graphic you can keep handy when you want to check if an oil is better for cooking vs. finishing…

Cooking Oils vs. Finishing Oils

Cooking Oils

Peanut Oil | Smoke point of 450 degrees F. Recommended for high-heat cooking, like deep frying or stir-frying.

Palm Oil | Smoke point of 450 degrees F. Efficient frying oil and commonly used in commercial baking products.

Corn Oil | Smoke point of 450 degrees F. It has a very neutral flavor and is used frequently in commercial kitchens for frying.

Vegetable Oil | Smoke point of 400 degrees F. Neutral-tasting and -smelling, great for high-heat sauteing and frying.

Canola Oil | Similar to vegetable oil in flavor, color, smoke point, and usage qualities.

Sesame Oil | High smoke point of 410 degrees F and relatively neutral flavor. A general-purpose oil for use in sautés, roasts, and more.

Avocado Oil | Smoke point of about 520 degrees F, which makes it great for: use it for sautéing, roasting, searing, and vinaigrettes alike. 

Sunflower Seed Oil | Smoke point of 440-450˚. Great for all things sear- and sauté-related.

Finishing Oils

EVOO | Smoke point of 352 degrees F. Bes for vinaigrettes and finishing oils.

Hemp Oil | Very nutty and rich in flavor. Dark green color. Too sensitive to be heated so save it for use as a finishing oil on soups or grain bowls.

Flax Seed Oil | Nutty tasting. Use sparingly in dressings or as a finisher—it's also great to season cast iron pans.

Toasted Nut or Seed Oils | Delicate in smoke point (don't heat!), but HUGE on flavor. They're a rich addition to soups and salads.

What are your favorite oils to cook with or finish dishes with?

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