Fats and Oils are very controversial. The rules keep changing and many are confused to the point of disregarding any aspects or advice on fats and oils.

One of the problems is that there are so many different kinds of fats and many criteria within each fat that today it is considered important in understanding if you want to have some control of your diet and menu.

The term fat is generally interpreted as a solid substance at room temperature which has properties of greasiness and can be cooked with as a frying agent or as an additive to certain recipes. Oils are the same except that oils are liquids at room temperature. Fats and oils have identical criteria in the definition of the type of compound it is.

Another term that come into the language of fats and oils is "Lipid". In fact Lipid is the umbrella term for these compounds. Cholesterol is a lipid but to make it a little more complex there are a few classes of cholesterol, two of which are commonly referred to by the general public and an understanding that these are some indication of health or risk. The two commonly referred to cholesterols are the so called HDL-Cholesterol and the LDL-Cholesterol. The HDL cholesterol is often referred to as the good cholesterol and LDL Cholesterol conversely referred to as the bad cholesterol. To simplify the numbers medical science has derived a single ratio of Total Cholesterol  divided by HDL Cholesterol, this then becomes an index of the bad LDL-Cholesterol; thus there is only one figure to interpret.

Saturated fats have the higher smoke points of the lipids and of recent times it has been suggested that fats and oils should not be heated to their smoking points because this changes some of the structure or chemistry of these lipids and is thought to be a responsible element in forming atheroma or plaques in our arteries.  The higher the smoke point, the safer is the heating margin particularly for frying and deep frying. Saturated fats themselves aren't considered the healthiest fats or oils for use at lower temperatures. The unsaturated or partly saturated oils are considered the safer. Many saturated compounds are converted to partly saturated compounds by controlled chemical reactions. Unfortunately it took some time to realise that there were hazards to our health from some of these derived fats. To confuse the issue of partly saturated oils these tend to have the lowest storage stability and even oxidise at room temperature in their bottles. The oxidation products are considered unhealthy.

The use of Trans fats is understood to be dangerous. (Trans and Cis are the two complementary possible configurations when hydrogenating saturated fats. ) Today though there is an awareness and legislation banning most of these trans fats in the USA. Foods and fats must be labelled with the amount of trans fats. Unfortunately this doesn't apply to foods with less than 5% of TFA. This is because of analytical uncertainty at this level and a lack of standardisation in measurement. But generally speaking the fats and oils commonly sold have only traces of TFA except for some margarin products and unfortunately animal fats such as Lard and Tallow have about 3% TFA. At this stage it is unclear if "natural" meat TFA is different i.e. safe compared to the synthesised oils or fats with TFA.


By clicking on any of the titles, the Table will be sorted in ascending order on that column. 

Oil/Fat Sat'd Monos Polys Smoke Point TFA [gm/T] Uses
Almond 8% 66% 26% 221 °C (430 °F) 0 Baking, sauces, flavoring
Avocado 12% 74% 14% 271 °C (520 °F) 0 Frying, sautéing, dipping oil, salad oil
Butter 66% 30% 4% 150 °C (302 °F) 0.3 Cooking, baking, condiment, sauces, flavoring
Ghee 65% 32% 3% 210 ºC (410 °F) 0.3 Deep frying, cooking, sautéeing, condiment, flavoring
Canola Oil 6% 62% 32% 242 °C (468 °F) 0 to 0.6 Frying, baking, salad dressings
Coconut oil 92% 6% 2% 177 °C (351 °F) 0 Commercial baked goods, candy and sweets, whipped toppings, nondairy coffee creamers, shortening
Rice Bran oil 20% 47% 33% 254 °C (489 °F) 0 Cooking, frying, deep frying, salads, dressings. Very clean flavoured and palatable
Corn Oil 13% 25% 62% 236 °C (457 °F) 0 Frying, baking, salad dressings, margarine, shortening
Cottonseed oil 24% 26% 50% 216 °C (421 °F) 0 Margarine, shortening, salad dressings, commercially fried products
Grape seed oil 12% 17% 71% 204 °C (399 °F) 0 Cooking, salad dressings, margarine
Lard 41% 47% 2% 170 °C (338 °F) 0.2 Baking, frying
Margarine, hard 80% 14% 6% 150 °C (302 °F) 2.8 Cooking, baking, condiment
Diacylglycerol (DAG) oil 4% 38% 59% 215 °C (419 °F) 0 Frying, baking, salad oil
Olive oil (extra virgin) 14% 73% 11% 190 °C (374 °F) 0 Cooking, salad oils, margarine
Olive oil (virgin) 14% 73% 11% 215 °C (419 °F) 0 Cooking, salad oils, margarine
Olive oil (refined) 14% 73% 11% 225 °C (437 °F) 0 Sautee, stir frying, cooking, salad oils, margarine
Olive oil (extra light) 14% 73% 11% 242 °C (468 °F) 0 Sautee, stir frying, frying, cooking, salad oils, margarine
Palm oil 52% 38% 10% 230 °C (446 °F) 0 Cooking, flavoring, vegetable oil, shortening
Peanut oil 18% 49% 33% 231 °C (448 °F) 0 Frying, cooking, salad oils, margarine
Safflower oil 10% 13% 77% 265 °C (509 °F) 0 Cooking, salad dressings, margarine
Sesame oil (Unrefined) 14% 43% 43% 177 °C (351 °F) 0 Cooking
Sesame oil (semi-refined) 14% 43% 43% 232 °C (450 °F) 0 Cooking, deep frying
Soybean oil 15% 24% 61% 241 °C (466 °F) 0 Cooking, salad dressings, vegetable oil, margarine, shortening
Sunflower oil (linoleic) 11% 20% 69% 246 °C (475 °F) 0 Cooking, salad dressings, margarine, shortening
Walnut oil (Unrefined) 9% 22% 61% 160 °C (320 °F) 0 cooking, salad dressings
Walnut oil (Refined) 9% 22% 61% 204 °C (400 °F) 0 Cooking, salad dressings
Tallow (Beef) 50% 42% 4% 220 °C (420 °F) 0.4 Cooking
Tallow (Mutton) 50% 41% 9% 204 °C (400 °F) 0.4 Cooking
Macadamia Oil 14% 85% 4% 210 °C (410 °F) 0 Salad dressings

Sat'd: Fat Saturation

Monos: Mono-unsaturation amount

Polys: Poly-unsaturated amount

TFA: Trans Fatty Acids

storage of cooking oils

Cooking oils aren't stable indefinitely. Polyunsaturated oils are less stable than saturated oils and become rancid fairly quickly. The three elements that cause rancidity are oxygen, light and heat so that storage should minimise the oil's contact with these agents.

To minimise light effects the oil can be stored in dark containers and for larger volumes you will notice that metal cans are chosen. This prevents all light coming into contact with the oil.

Heat effects can also be simply managed by storing the oils in cool areas. Refrigeration is often used and although this increases the viscosity this can be managed by bringing the oil out of refrigeration for a period before pouring.

Oxygen is minimised by storing the oil in impervious containers. Either metal or glass is superior to PET bottles which are most often the container these oils are sold in.

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