Day 11: Common Cooking Oils And How To Use Them

Oils. There’s so many of them! They line the shop shelves in various disguises and the costs vary so much it’s often a confusing area.

From olive to pumpkin, rapeseed to coconut, today we’re getting back to the basics and going through exactly what you need and what you don’t.

From a chef’s perspective, they play an important role in cooking and feature in dressings, to emulsions like mayonnaise and are key to roasting. And realistically you only need 2, maybe 3 depending on your taste in your cupboards – extra virgin olive oil, light olive oil and rapeseed oil.

Those 3 oils are the most commonly used oils in kitchens.

However when there’s so many to choose from and so many marketing campaigns labelling certain ones like coconut oil ‘superfoods’ it can get confusing.

I hope this gives you some clarification!

1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is my personal favourite and a favourite in many dishes.

It works well in salad dressing, adds a richness to pasta sauces including the simple but easy to get wrong tomato sauce, and it has a great flavour simply on its on. A warm summer night, sat out in the garden with warm bread, oils, plus a glass of vino is a very special thing.

Extra virgin olive oil can burn easily or in technical terms ‘doesn’t have a high smoke point’. So you need to use this oil in lower temperature dishes.

To see if your oil is burning, you’ll know from smoke/gas coming off the pan. Once that happens, discard it.

2. Light Olive Oil

Light olive oil is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s similar to extra virgin olive oil, but it has a lighter flavour and a higher smoke point making it a great option for higher temperature cooking.

If you like dipping oils and dressings but find extra virgin olive oil too much, this is a great option as the flavour is pretty neutral.

3. Rapeseed Oil

Rapeseed is a staple British crop and a favourite kitchen oil.

It’s non-greasy texture makes it invisible in many dishes and it’s the secret to the perfect steak and roast potatoes.

It’s high smoke point makes it a great oil to use when searing and for getting those potatoes extra crispy.

Being a British chef, it’s also a good one for me from an environmental point of view because it doesn’t have to be flown in from anywhere.


Like many things, you get what you pay for when it comes to oils.

I’ve found the higher the price, the higher the quality and the richer the flavour.

For me, I tend to have one bottle of each end of the scale around, simply because they do different things.

For example with rapeseed oil, general rapeseed oils tends to have a neutral flavour so I can use it in savoury to baking dishes, but at the higher end is coldpressed rapeseed oil. This has a very strong flavour and works better in dressings.

Other Oils To Potentially Buy

If you’re a fan of cooking, I’d always recommend having the following to hand:

  • Sesame oil

Sesame oil is great in many Asian recipes and it makes an amazing dipping oil.

Oils I Avoid

1. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is one of the worst things to come in to cooking in recent years in my opinion.

It makes everything taste like coconut and seeing as flavour is my main goal, I don’t want everything from pasta to stir fries tasting like coconut.

2. Avocado Oil

Avocado oil falls in to this category because of the environmental impacts harvesting avocados has.

Other more sustainable oils cover this oil. Plus, it’s expensive so makes it difficult to justify for every day use.

3. Peanut Oil

Again, it’s simply due to the flavour. Not a lot of meals will take peanut oil very well.

When other oils can cover you, it’s not worth it.

Health And Using Oil In Daily Cooking

At the time of writing this I’m currently not qualified in nutrition and it’s important I’m honest and transparent about that before you read this section. In other news I’m started my nutrition course next week which I’m very excited about so one day I will be qualified from a health stand point. But for now, this is based on personal and professional experience.

Personally I never use oil in more than one meal a day.

For example if I have a salad with dressing for lunch, I won’t have anything roasted or fried for breakfast or dinner.

The reason being is for me, and for what I call ‘The Rebalance Way’, it’s about exactly that – balance.

It’s easy to fall in to the trap of using oil at every meal, but I challenge you to only include it one as it’s a high calorie food.

Plus, by only using oil once a day, you’ll broaden your cooking skills and find other ways of enhancing meals without the use of it. It’s fun, I promise haha!

Let’s Connect!

Along with the daily journal posts here, each Wednesday at 12pm BST I’ll be going live on my instagram @therebalancechef to recap on the week’s progress and show you around my kitchen. Depending on the weather you might even meet my rescue hens!

The main point of this challenge is to have fun with it, learn new skills and refresh old ones.

I want to see your creations so don’t forget to tag me and show off what you’ve been doing!

I’m taking part in the Rebalance May Cookery Challenge! Check it out here