When it comes to cooking oils, it’s best to follow this simple rule: All things in moderation.
We know it’s pretty hard to make vinaigrette without some good olive oil, and almost impossible to whip up delightful mashed potatoes without butter. That said, experts do recommend getting most of your fatty acids from solid foods rather than their oils (for instance, try olives instead of olive oil). It’s easy to minimize the risks and maximize the benefits of oil by following a few smart tips:
- Always use the freshest oil possible. Heat, light and oxygen can quickly turn oil rancid, not only giving it an off-putting taste, but creating free radicals in the oil that can increase your risk of cancer. Be sure to always check the expiration date and do the sniff test—if you smell a crayon-like or “off” odor, throw it out!
- Never use oil after it’s reached its smoke point. All oils have a different smoke point—unprocessed olive oil can have a smoke point as low as 320°F, while avocado oil’s smoke point is 520°F—but if you accidentally heat the oil over that temperature, it’s best to toss the oil and any food in the pan. The oil smokes because it’s starting to decompose, creating toxic fumes and free radicals that are harmful to your body.
- Keep your kitchen well ventilated when cooking with oil. Heating oil releases compounds that are a form of indoor air pollution and can negatively affect the lungs over time.