What’s the Best Oil for Frying? (Spoiler: It’s Not Olive Oil)

You’ve set your sights on a batch of homemade fried chicken (we’re totally jealous) and you have your mise en place ready for takeoff. But beyond the seasoning and dredging, there’s just one tiny concern: the actual business of deep-frying. You can handle the mess, but that’s a lot of bubbling oil, right? Wait—what’s the best oil for frying anyway?

If you want the short answer: Vegetable oil is the best oil for frying. It’s inexpensive, easy to find at any store, has a neutral flavor and a high smoke point. Why does that matter? Allow us to explain further.

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The Best Oil for Frying

Like we said, vegetable oil is best for frying, and while, yes, technically any oil derived from a plant can be called “vegetable” oil, we’re referring to the vegetable oil that says it on the bottle. (It’s usually a blend of a few refined vegetable oils.) Comparing it to a few other options on the shelf will make the choice obvious.

  • Peanut oil boasts a high smoke point and neutral flavor…but is pretty expensive to be buying in the large amounts needed to deep-fry.
  • Canola oil, another so-called vegetable oil, is flavorless like peanut oil and vegetable oil, but it stinks to high heaven when reheated. (We’re talking fish vibes—pass.)
  • Olive oil, especially extra-virgin olive oil, is an immediate no because it’s expensive and has too low a smoke point for anything more than low- to medium-heat cooking.
  • Butter, while delicious, costs a lot more than vegetable oil and will burn at the temperatures required for deep-frying.

While we wouldn’t use plain oil vegetable oil for a salad dressing or drizzle, it’s our go-to for frying. Here’s why:

It Has a Neutral Flavor

Unlike olive oil, which is prized for its distinct and varied flavor, vegetable oil tastes like absolutely nothing—and that’s a good thing. You’re not deep-frying to give that chicken a certain flavor. You just want to get it cooked through and impossibly crispy.

It Has a High Smoke Point

The smoke point is the temperature at which an oil will start to smoke, aka burn. You want to avoid that. Cooking an oil past its smoke point will not only make it taste bitter and rancid, it will also start to decompose and give off toxic fumes. Yikes. Vegetable oil has a smoke point of about 430°F—compared to 350°F for extra-virgin olive oil—making it ideal for most things you’d fry at home. (For reference, most deep-frying is done at temperatures between 350°F and 400°F.)

It’s Affordable and Accessible

This point doesn’t need much explanation. Deep-frying requires a lot of oil. You wouldn’t want to use that entire bottle of cold-pressed olive oil you bought in Italy for $50 on a single batch of chicken thighs. Even canola and peanut oil are expensive when buying in large amounts. Vegetable oil usually costs between 6 and 9 cents per ounce—a bargain! And it’s available at any grocery store.

Katherine Gillen

Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...
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