Choosing the right oil

This article was originally published in October 2014

Different oils fill different needs — for health, taste and cooking. For good health, our bodies need a variety of healthy fats found naturally in different oils.
This guide will help you choose what oils are best suited for specific cooking techniques or are best when used raw. Learn more about oils in our downloadable brochure, including expeller pressing versus chemical extraction, unrefined versus refined oils and more:

Frequently asked questions

Should I heat oil to the smoke point? No. If oil smokes in the pan, discard it. The temperature is too high. Clean the pan and start over at a lower temperature. The point where oil smokes signals that the oil has been damaged and potentially cancer-causing properties have formed.

Can I use olive oil for all cooking? Extra virgin olive oil deserves its reputation as a healthy culinary oil. It contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and phenols — protective compounds that provide numerous benefits. But to maximize the health benefits, we recommend using unrefined extra virgin olive oil raw for salads and dips, or for lower-heat cooking.

I’ve heard I should not use canola oil. Why? It is true that more than 90 to 95 percent of the canola grown in the United States is genetically engineered, but all canola oil sold at PCC is either certified organic or Non-GMO Project Verified. Canola was bred from rapeseed, which 30 years ago contained elevated levels of erucic acid considered harmful to humans. Today’s canola contains less than 2 percent of this controversial fatty acid.

Storing oils

Air, heat and light cause oils to oxidize and turn rancid. Natural oils should smell and taste fresh and pleasant. Can’t tell? If in doubt, throw it out! Studies indicate that rancid fats may promote cancer and heart disease.

To maintain quality of flavor and nutrition, it’s best to store oils in an airtight glass bottle in a cool, dark place. For oils that will sit unused for longer than one month, storing in the refrigerator is ideal.

Types of oils

Not all oils are suitable for cooking. Some oxidize and turn rancid when exposed to heat, making them unhealthy.

Also in this issue

Climate change and northwest agriculture

Climate change seems certain to take a toll on Washington's $40 billion annual agriculture industry, but the Northwest may be able to adapt better than other regions.

PCC Board of Trustees report, October 2014

Board meeting report, Next board meeting, Board outreach event, and more

Letter for strong organic standards

PCC and other businesses oppose recent changes to the National Organic Program that make it easier to keep using synthetic ingredients in organic foods.