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FAQ: Which Oil Should I Use?

At the cookery school one of the questions we hear most often is, "Which oil should I use?" Well, it depends what you are going to use it for. If you want to keep things simple, it's best to stock up with a few good oils and use them quickly as all oils will go rancid. It’s important to store oils in a cool place out of the light, not by the hot oven! Here is what we recommend for different techniques and dishes:

Salad Dressing

For salad dressing our go-to oil is extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is always cold-pressed mechanically without the use of solvents. Tastes vary from sweet/fruity to bitter/almondy to green/peppery. Similar to wine, the finest olive oil is made by single estates and varies from year to year and from estate to estate. Single estate olive oil is the most expensive. Use extra virgin for salad dressings, marinades and Mediterranean dishes where the strong flavour of extra virgin olive oil will enhance the dish. The brand we like for general every day use is Elanthos from Greece.


We like Rapeseed oil and reckon it makes the best roast potatoes. Cold pressed rapeseed oil contains less saturated fatty acids than other vegetable oils. It also has the highest level of Omega 3 and a good balance of Omegas 3, 6 and 9. The brand we like is Bath Harvest, a cold pressed rapeseed oil locally grown and milled in Bath.


We use a neutral tasting Sunflower oil for frying, stir frying and for occasional deep frying. Sunflower Oil has a neutral flavour and is ideal for everyday use and Indian and Far Eastern cooking. Make sure you buy a good quality brand with no added colour, no anti-foaming agents and no added antioxidants. Our preferred brand is Community Foods.

Stir Frys

Plain un-toasted sesame oil is excellent for stir-frys imparting a subtle nutty flavour. The brand we like is Essential Organic Cold pressed Sesame oil from Essential Trading. Toasted sesame oil has a very strong nutty flavour and is best added after cooking. Delicious added to cooked noodles, stir-frys or mixed with plain un-toasted sesame oil for a dressing.

Specialty Oils

There is a place for specialty oils, but they tend to be expensive. Remember to use them quickly, before they lose their unique flavour and go rancid. These oils are generally not suitable for cooking so make into salad dressings, and drizzle over dishes.

  • Argan oil comes from the fruits of the ancient argan tree Morocco Ironwood, which is a thorny and hardy evergreen endemic to the semi-desert of southwestern Morocco. The oil is rich in vitamin E and high in essential fatty acids. Delicious eaten with dukkah and warm flat bread.
  • Avocado oil is best eaten as a salad dressing, retaining all its good qualities, rich in vitamin E and oleic acid-omega 9. Keep in the fridge.
  • Flax/Linseed oil is an excellent source of poly-unsaturated fatty acids and is high in omega 3. Do not heat, use cold on salads in dips or just drizzle over vegetable and rice dishes. Keep in the fridge.
  • A cold-pressed hazelnut oil is excellent for enlivening simple salad leaves and drizzling over rustic bread. As with all nut oils keep out of the light and away from heat. Do not let them go rancid. Keep in the fridge.
  • Hemp seed oil is rich in essential fatty acids omega 3, 6 and 9. Its flavour is an acquired taste. Use cold in salad dressings or as a daily supplement. Keep in the fridge.

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