Canola oil, one of the more versatile cooking oils, has a wide range of uses in and out of the kitchen, from adding texture and balance to a slew of delicious dishes to slathering it on before bed as a moisturizer. However, there’s more to Canola oil than meets the eye. For instance, did you know that canola oil is Canadian? In fact, the word “canola” is a portmanteau of “Canada” and “ola,” an acronym for “oil low acid.” And, it’s pretty healthy—despite what internet oil trolls (yes, those exist) might have you believe. But before you start cooking, here’s a rundown of some canola oil basics.
First of all, let’s put a popular canola oil myth to rest. Every so often the misconception that canola oil is toxic and contains high levels of erucic acid (not a good thing) circulates the internet. While high levels of erucic acid are observed in rapeseed oil, Canola oil is produced by extracting the oil from the seeds of the canola plant, a variety of the rapeseed plant that’s been bred to have extremely low levels of the stuff. In other words, your canola-based salad dressing or vinaigrette isn’t going to kill you, cause heart disease, or do any of the other nasty stuff they say erucic acid might do to people. In fact, canola oil has one of the lowest levels of saturated fat of any commonly-used cooking oil, which makes it one of the best oils to use if you’re interested in lowering your cholesterol. It also has one of the highest concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids among cooking oils, second only to flaxseed oil.
Canola oil usually comes in a rich yellow color and has a relatively bland flavor. It has a high smoke point—around 405°F—which makes it a versatile tool in the kitchen. It’s not only great for dressings and dips like this DIY garlic aioli, but it shines in more complex dishes as well, such as morels in black bean sauce and this parsnip salad in a wheat beer vinaigrette. It’s also often used in baking, since its neutral flavor doesn’t drown out other ingredients, and in stir- and deep-frying.
Ready to start frying, baking, and marinating with canola oil, but don’t know where to pick up a bottle? If you’re looking for something that you might not find at the cornerstore, La Tourangelle makes a nice organic canola oil, but these other oils are solid as well.