My cooking style has change a lot since my childhood days of margarine and vegetable oil. Though my Mom did use olive oil and sesame oil all the others I use now were unheard of “back in the day.”
Here’s what I use and how I use it today.
Olive Oil: This is what I use the most. I enjoy the flavor as is. When I sauté vegetables or need a little in the bottom of a pan to give something a light growing before adding liquid that is my oil. Also great for a salad drizzle or roasting garlic. A must to toast buns in for hamburgers too! Extra Virgin Olive Oil will take medium heat, but anything less keep the heat cooler. The unrefined just don’t bother trying to cook with it as it will smoke and taste off. Use that fresh. Never try frying with Extra Virgin unless you mix it with a higher heat oil. You can use this in cosmetics and lotions.
Grape Seed Oil: This really is my go to for frying tacos or tostadas. It can take the heat for that level of cooking. (I never deep fry as a rule, so I don’t know if that would be a good choice. It is expensive for that amount of oil necessary anyway.) What I like about grape seed oil is its light flavor. Clean and unobtrusive, you get more flavor of what you are cooking as well as crispiness than using vegetable or olive oils. Great choice for skillet frying and has a high smoke point. I also use grape seed oil with olive oil for my face lotion and foot balms. You can use this in cosmetics and lotions.
Butter: Great in cookies and sautéing fish. Oven fried chicken gets a healthy amount melted in the bottom before the chicken is laid in it skin side down. Definitely a distinct flavor, but lends itself to “white meat”. Depending on what I am cooking, I may balance its heaviness with olive, grape seed or even coconut oil. Keep the heat low when sautéing and never fry with it on the stove top. It will burn and give off a bitter taste. Has a low smoke threshold.
Coconut Oil: Takes good heat, but has a definite flavor. If you don’t like coconut, write this one off your list. If you want that tropical flavor, this is the ticket though. You can fry fish in it and the tortillas (fish tacos anyone?). Wonderful with a little melted butter for French toast as well. I have used it as a half substitute for baked goods when I didn’t mind that flavor and wanted a healthier alternative than straight butter. Higher smoke threshold. You can use this in cosmetics and lotions.
Sesame Oil: Mom was the one that showed me how this was a perfect pair for Asian food. When I stir fry, a little of this goes in the bottom of the wok. If I do a teriyaki type marinade this will be the oil of choice. Lovely nutty flavor too. It takes heat well, but I’ve never tried frying in it. According to Wikipedia you can deep fry with light sesame oil which has a high smoke point. However, toasted sesame oil has a lower smoke point and is not suitable for deep frying.
Flavored Oils: These are olive oils with natural infusions. My current larder has Meyer Lemon, Garlic Mushroom, and Chili Garlic olive oils.
Meyer Lemon is the schiznit drizzled over roasted Brussels sprouts, strawberries or pound cake. I’ve used it as a vegetable oil substitute when baking a cake too. A good Meyer Lemon Olive Oil such as from Mi Distinctive Tastes carries a nice non bitter lemon essence. Bright and slightly sweet it also does well with chicken and fish.
Garlic Mushroom is what I reach for to lace on to a salad with a hearty basalmic vinegar to balance. A sprinkle of smoked salt you have a simple healthy salad dressing.
Garlic Chili Oil is a mind opener for flavor. We’ve marinaded chicken with it together with Gator Holler for some fireside warmth. It is also good just drizzled over your grilled meats or vegetables. I bet it would be great mooshed into hamburgers too.
Note: Great infused olive oils and 18 year aged basalmics that I use are from Mi Distinctive Tastes from Ukiah California.