A Guide to Cooking Oils in New Zealand

10th April 2024

There is a surplus of cooking oils available in New Zealand and making the right choice can impact the flavours and health benefits of your meals.

Below is a general guide to choosing an oil depending on your cooking method, nutritional benefits/needs and flavour preferences.

When choosing an oil to cook with, we need to first identify the purpose of the oil – is it to provide additional flavour and nutrients? Or simply to ensure our kai does not stick to the pan and burn? Please note, the oils we are discussing below are for cooking purposes – nut and seed oils are in general not used for cooking due to their very low burn/smoke points and should therefore be used cold as dressings so as to retain their nutritional and flavour qualities.

Let's begin with a fundamental aspect of cooking oils – the smoke point. Heating oils above their smoke point leads to the breakdown of nutrients, creation of smoke and the possible formation of harmful compounds. Therefore it is important to choose an oil that will not breach its smoke point with the method and temperature of cooking you are using. The smoke point of our most commonly used oils (and therefore the temperature above which they should not be used):

• Rice Bran Oil ~230C
• Cold Pressed Rapeseed ~230C
• Coconut oil - refined ~230C, unrefined/virgin ~177C
• Extra Virgin Olive oil 180C

Olive oil. celebrated for its robust flavour and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, has a smoke point that falls on the lower end of the spectrum. The exact temperature that the oil can start to degrade does vary, but generally it is recommended to only use olive oil for cooking at low to moderate temperatures or even better still – used as a dressing and/or drizzled over salads, veges or cooked dishes.

Cold-pressed rapeseed oil has come to the market in New Zealand in the form of our favourite general and multi-use oil; The Good Oil. Canola oil also comes from the rapeseed plant, however it undergoes both heat and chemical extraction methods followed by further processing which sheds most of the natural antioxidants and vitamins that cold-pressed rapeseed oil retains. For this reason, as part of Fast Track, we encourage you to use The Good Oil or one of the above oils for cooking over canola oil when and where possible.

Proper storage of cooking oils is paramount to preserving their freshness and nutritional integrity. Olive oil and other seed derived oils are sensitive to light. Therefore these oils are best stored in a dark, cool place, preferably in tinted bottles. Also use this assessment when purchasing your oil – is it in a tinted bottle? Rice bran oil's stability under high temperatures makes it more forgiving, though a cool storage spot is still advisable.

We hope this provides you with a little more insight and aids you with choosing your next oil purchase at the shop or from the shelf. Happy cooking!