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It's common to put a small amount of oil in the pan when frying, such as with a stir fry. But different oils have different qualities, so what would be the best choice for pan frying? I assume that applying high heat to an oil will affect the oil in some way that makes a material difference for health. A good answer would account for the following criteria quantitatively.

  • Each oil has a unique smoke point that may also be affected by refining
  • Saturated fats may be more (or less) heat-stable

Assume that price is not a concern. If other fats not considered oils are superior, please provide an answer for both an oil and non-oil solution. If all oils are equal from a health perspective, even under heat, then that can be the answer.

  • Mmm...I'm not seeing anything really health related here? And, this is a pretty broad question. Related on cooking: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/40262/… – JohnP Apr 16 '18 at 20:30
  • I would accept as an answer that there is no health difference between cooking with different oils if that turned out to be true. – Nic Apr 16 '18 at 20:35
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    I guess what I'm getting at is that I am guessing you want to know the healthiest oil to pan fry with? If so, you may want to edit to make that more clear (And more on topic here, as cooking rejects questions about health implications). – JohnP Apr 16 '18 at 20:37
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    I think he's getting at that because there's recent press about how extra virgin olive oil has a low flash point, so it is not ideal for pan frying - so he wants to know what oil is ideal to use. I do still think he'd get a faster answer on cooking, because healthy cooking is on topic there, and Health.SE you will find more mainstream medicine topics. Believe it or not, those things aren't covered in medical school. – DoctorWhom Apr 17 '18 at 0:10
  • Across the board liquid vegetable oils are considered healthier. Avoid animal fat and hydrogenated vegetable oils (solid at room temperature). Google wok cooking oils. Cooking method reduces the amount of oil left in the food. – paparazzo Apr 17 '18 at 1:20
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There are 2 main issues: smoke point and content

For frying, it is obviously better to avoid oils with a low smoke point. Heating oils beyond their smoke point causes them to break down and oxidise. However this is complicated by the way in which the oils are processed. Highly refined oils will have a higher smoke point than unrefined or less refined oils.

The ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 is also important since most western diets have far too much Omega-6.

Therefore, choose an oil which has a high smoke point and a low Omega-6 content, and avoid oils with low smoke point and/or a high Omega-6 content.

Some contenders, bearing in mind the comment about processing:

For high temperature frying:

  • Avocado oil (271°C, high in Omega-9).
  • Extra light olive oil (242°C, high in Omega-9).

For medium temperature cooking:

  • Macadamia nut oil (199°C, high in Omega 9, low in Omega 6)

For low temperature frying:

  • Coconut oil (177°C, no Omega's)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (160°C, high in Omega-9)
  • Hemp seed oil (160°C, high in Omega-3)

Sources:

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  • Frying in extra virgin olive oil is a waste of money. Once heated to 160C EVOO loses its characteristic taste, so you may as well just use one of the other, less expensive oils. – Carey Gregory Apr 18 '18 at 22:56
  • @CareyGregory that's why I said "For low temperature fying". I routinely gently fry vegetables in EVOO with no loss of flavour - I doubt that it reaches 150°C, – Robert Long Apr 19 '18 at 6:29

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