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How to Cook with Oil

What's the difference between sesame, avocado, and olive oil? One local chef breaks it down.
| |Elizabeth Lavin

Using the cooking oil that pairs best with your dish can take your food from good to great. But in addition to an oil’s inherent flavor, it’s important to consider its smoke point, or the temperature at which the fats within it break down and begin to produce smoke (which can make your food taste burned or bitter). “For me, I start with what function I am looking for—meaning high-heat versus low-heat cooking—and then decide what flavor component I want to bring, if any,” says Suki Otsuki, chef and founder of Four Dimensions Wellness. Though Otsuki admits the wide variety even within the same category of oil can make selecting the right one overwhelming, “Once you begin exploring it really is simple,” she says. “It’s not about brand, it is some about price, but it’s truly about sourcing quality and making sure it’s the right oil for the job.” She weighs in on the best uses for five of her favorite oils.

1. Avocado

Light and fresh, loaded with healthy Omega 9 and Omega 3 fats and a mild buttery taste, this oil boasts a smoke point of around 400 degrees, making it great for high-heat applications like
pan frying.

2. Coconut

The most “cross-utilizable oil,” according to Otsuki, because it’s not only healthy but has a decent heat capacity (350 degrees), is great for baking, and makes an excellent vegan replacement for butter.

3. Sesame

A distinctly flavored oil with a smoke point of around 400 degrees that Otsuki says pairs especially well with Asian stir fry and is delicious when used in a vinaigrette. “It really brings something to a dish,” she says.

4. Olive

A healthy option with a distinct flavor that Otsuki says is great for oven roasting. With a lower smoke point than some others (starting at around 325 degrees for virgin varieties), it’s not as suitable for intense frying.

5. Peanut

With a smoke point of around 450, peanut oil gives the high-heat benefits of avocado oil at a cheaper price point. “It gives the most delicious flavor to breaded items,” Otsuki says, making it her go-to choice for deep frying.

*Pro Tip

Says Otsuki: “It is so important to make sure your pan spray is a good one. There are a lot of alternatives to the processed margarines and chemical aerosols, such as avocado or olive oil options.”

Where to Strike Oil

1890 Marketplace

The Deep Ellum storefront offers a range of fused and infused olive oils, with flavors from Persian lime to wild mushroom and sage. 

Infused Oils & Vinegars

This Preston Center shop sells olive oil varieties and flavor profiles that span the globe, available in bottles or one-ounce packets perfect for meals on the go. 

Grapevine Olive Oil Company

In addition to fused and infused small-farm olive oils, find specialty oils (butternut squash seed, pecan, avocado), dipping seasonings, and oil-based condiments.