What is the Best Oil For Deep Frying?

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Picture of deep fried foodA little earlier we looked at the best oils for high heat cooking.

But what about fat specifically for deep frying?

Of course, deep frying is far from the healthiest cooking method.

But some people enjoy deep fried food from time to time, and it’s important to know the most suitable oil.

This article presents the best oil for deep frying, as well as some important considerations to take into account.

Important Considerations 

You may have heard talk about precise smoke points and ‘low in saturated fat’, but it’s best to forget about those things.

In reality, the health impacts of frying with an oil depend on how heat stable the particular fatty acids are (1, 2).

And the most stable fats of all are saturated fats. So, choosing a cooking oil that is low in saturated fat makes no sense at all (3).

In contrast, if you choose a vegetable oil then these oils are full of polyunsaturated fats, which are the least resistant to oxidation (4).

In other words, vegetable oils are not stable at high heat.

As a result, deep frying these fats will likely result in the formation of oxidative products – something which has strong links to inflammation and associated diseases.

And by associated diseases, I mean Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and a whole lot more (5, 6, 7, 8).

How Do We Deep Fry Food?

Picture of someone about to deep fry a whole chickenWhen we are deep frying food, we need to fully submerge the food into boiling hot cooking oil.

The temperature of this oil is set at somewhere between 350°F (177°C) and 375 °F (191°C) (9).

If the temperature is wrong, then the food’s surface might form too slowly, causing the food to absorb large amounts of oil. On the other hand, if the heat settings are too high then the surface of the food will burn.

Because we need an extreme temperature to make deep fried foods, we need to carefully consider the type of cooking oil. With this in mind, the healthiest fat for deep frying is a little different to the best oil for stir-frying or general cooking.

For example, making a pan-fried steak with a little butter is fine. But butter contains dairy sugars and proteins, which can burn at high heat and this makes it a poor choice for deep frying.

To avoid burning our food, and the formation of carcinogens and oxidative products, we should steer clear of polyunsaturated fat (10).

Key Point: Deep fat frying relies on high temperatures, so the type of oil is very important. The healthiest cooking oils for your deep fat fryer are saturated fats.

The Healthiest Oil For Deep Frying: 5 of the Best

Here are five cooking oils that are suitable for your deep fryer, all of which retain stability at a high heat.

Key

SFA = Saturated Fat  MUFA = Monounsaturated Fat  PUFA = Polyunsaturated Fat

1. LardPicture of lard, a fat good for deep frying

Lard is rendered fat from a pig. Sometimes it can be hard to find, but if it’s not in your local shops then you can always enquire at a local farm or butcher.

And if not, you can easily arrange an online delivery. It’s actually a very traditional cooking fat, popular with our grandparents and great-grandparents before that.

And it’s also one of the very best options for deep fryers. The heat stability and fat soluble vitamin content make lard a healthy choice for deep frying (11).

Furthermore, it makes food taste delicious – giving it a crispy taste full of flavor.

When you buy lard, look out for a ‘grass-fed’ option. This is because lard from pigs raised on pasture has a smaller amount of polyunsaturated fat and more fat soluble vitamins.

Fatty Acid Composition (source: USDA)

  • SFA: 38%
  • MUFA: 49%
  • PUFA: 13%
Key Point: Lard is heat stable, contains fat soluble vitamins, and tastes delicious. It’s the perfect fat for deep frying.

2. Ghee

Picture of ghee, a commonly used fat for deep frying

While butter may not be the best oil for deep frying, ghee is a very solid option.

Ghee is a clarified butter, which means that the dairy proteins and sugars (lactose) have been removed.

This makes ghee a pure fat; it has much higher resistance to burning than butter, and it’s heat stable at higher temperatures.

As one of the best cooking fats for deep fryers, frying with ghee gives food a lovely taste. And in my opinion, it’s the best tasting cooking oil of all.

Just like with lard, it’s best to choose a grass-fed ghee for a better fatty acid and fat soluble vitamin profile (12).

You can either buy ghee from a health food store, online, or you could even make it yourself.

In fact, making ghee doesn’t take long at all. It’s easy to make from butter and this video shows you exactly how to do it:

Fatty Acid Composition (source: USDA)

  • SFA: 66%
  • MUFA: 30%
  • PUFA: 4%
Key Point: The difference between ghee and butter is that ghee has no dairy sugars or proteins. However, ghee is richer, better tasting, and a healthier choice for deep fat frying.

3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Picture of Extra Virgin Olive Oil - a Fat Suitable For Deep FryingOlive oil in a deep fryer? Really?

There is a persistent myth that olive oil is a healthy fat, but only when used as a salad dressing.

However, the truth is that olive oil is fairly stable at high temperatures. There are two reasons why:

  • Olive oil is very low in polyunsaturated fat and mainly consists of monounsaturated fat, which has a relatively good heat stability (13, 14).

And if you’re not convinced, then we can look at several studies that test olive oil’s oxidative stability:

  • A study evaluated olive, corn, soybean, and sunflower cooking oils in a deep-frying test. Olive oil had the lowest deterioration in quality and the greatest resistance to oxidative damage (17).
  • A further study shows that olive oil is “clearly resistant to frying conditions”. This particular study used olive oil for deep frying over a continuous 24 hours – and tests showed only minor levels of oxidation (18).

While olive oil is not the best oil to fry with, it does a reasonable job and stands up to heat fairly well.

Fatty Acid Composition (source: Nutrition Data)

  • SFA: 14.2%
  • MUFA: 75%
  • PUFA: 10.8%
Key Point: While it isn’t as heat-stable as saturated fats, you can deep fry with olive oil. It’s also much safer than seed oils.

4. Tallow

Picture of Tallow, one of the best oils for deep fryingBeef tallow is rendered fat from a cow.

Deep frying with beef tallow is a very traditional practice, and it’s also one of the smartest choices for your deep fryer.

Tallow is predominantly a saturated fat, with almost as much monounsaturated fat. Additionally, there is only a small amount (4%) of polyunsaturated fat (19).

Tallow also has a very light flavor, so it doesn’t overpower the food you are frying like some oils can.

Fatty Acid Composition (source: USDA)

  • SFA: 52.1%
  • MUFA: 43.7%
  • PUFA: 4.2%
Key Point: Tallow is full of saturated and monounsaturated fat, making it one of the best fats for deep frying.

5. Coconut oil

Picture of Coconut Oil, one of the most heat-resistant cooking oils.Given that coconut oil has a saturated fat content of 91%, it’s perhaps the most suitable oil for the deep fryer (20, 21).

As a result, frying with this tropical oil is unlikely to cause harmful amounts of oxidation products.

Coconut oil also contains lauric acid, which is also present in mother’s milk and has beneficial antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties (22, 23).

However, it’s important to note that despite its natural image, coconut oil can also be a refined oil (24).

So, if you want to avoid fats that use solvents like hexane in their extraction process, then look for “cold-pressed” on the label.

Aside from that, perhaps the only problem with coconut oil is the strong flavor, with some people feeling the taste of coconut on their food. Personally, I have never noticed this — but many people do.

Fatty Acid Composition (source: USDA)

  • SFA: 91.1%
  • MUFA: 7%
  • PUFA: 1.9%
Key Point: Coconut oil is extremely stable at high heat and likely the optimal oil for deep frying.

The Best Oil For Deep Frying?

Picture of some food made by deep frying.

Okay, so there are five oils mentioned here and you’re only looking for one.

Which one is best?

For me, that depends on what you are looking for – health or taste.

Health

Regarding heat stability and resistance to oxidation, I’d choose coconut oil every time. It has the highest proportion of saturated fat and barely any polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Taste

Ghee is the best-tasting fat in my opinion, but it also influences the overall flavor of the food with its buttery taste.

So, to give food a great but not overpowering flavor, I think tallow is the best choice.

Key Point: Coconut oil is the most heat-resistant oil for deep frying, but tallow is the tastiest.

Never Use Polyunsaturated Vegetable Oils For Deep Frying

No matter what you might hear, the fact remains that these vegetable oils are full of unstable omega-6 polyunsaturated oils.

Deep frying these oils is likely to result in the formation of carcinogens and oxidation products (25, 26).

Here are a few common vegetable oils to avoid:

  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
Key Point: Vegetable oils are ultra-processed industrial foods. It’s best avoiding them for your overall health, and they are a poor choice for deep frying.

Cooking Food in a Deep Fryer is Not a Healthy Choice

Picture of a deep fat fryerIt’s important to realize that high heat cooking is not health-supportive.

So, while using an oil that has good resistance to high heat is important, it doesn’t make deep frying good for you.

Deep fried food is generally bad because it exposes food to extremely hot temperatures.

In fact, cooking food at high temperatures can result in the formation of potentially harmful compounds such as advanced glycation end products (AGEs), aldehydes and various carcinogens (27, 28, 29).

AGEs can cause widespread oxidative damage in the body, and some studies suggest that aldehydes are carcinogenic (30, 31).

There are many delicious deep fried foods like chicken, fish and various vegetables, but it’s better to choose less abrasive forms of cooking.

Gentler Cooking Methods

Some of the least abrasive cooking methods include:

  • Baking
  • Boiling
  • Poaching
  • Steaming
  • Stewing

With each of these cooking styles, you can easily control the temperature and prevent food from overheating.

Key Point: Deep frying is not the best choice when it comes to health, and it’s best to deep fry only occasionally.

Make Deep Fried Food Healthier

Picture of some red wine being poured into a wine glass

While deep frying is not generally healthy, there are some methods we can use to make a deep fried meal healthier.

  • Use the Correct temperature
  • Use one of the healthy oils in this article – coconut oil being the optimal choice
  • Don’t re-use old oil – every time we heat oil, it becomes less resistant to oxidation. It’s understandable to want to save money, but continuously using the same deep frying oil is a bad idea (32).
  • Drink some wine with the meal; wine is high in polyphenols that are known to help protect against oxidative damage in the body (33, 34).

Final Thoughts

To sum up, if you like to eat deep fried food then enjoy the experience, but try not to do it too often.

Coconut oil is the best oil for deep frying, and ghee, lard, olive oil, and tallow are also fairly healthy choices.

 

6 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks very good information but only a few people will understand who wants to know about the benefits of healthy cooking in turn to good health

  2. Thanks Michael for acknowledging my comment on cooking oil looking for more information on health related products

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