Three Oils You Need in the Kitchen (And One More That Might Be Nice)

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There are three oils I use regularly in my kitchen, the ones I will replace as soon as the bottle is empty, even if I don't need them right that second. Two for flavor, and one for its lack of flavor and high smoke point.

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These are my three favorites, the ones I'll buy on sale, because I know I'll use the open bottles quickly enough so the new ones won't go bad before I need them.

  1. Extra virgin olive oil. Well, duh. Is any kitchen complete without this one? We love it so much, and it's become such a staple that we refer to it in recipes and on restaurant menus as EVOO, and most people know what the acronym represents. The flavor is distinctive and delicious. For the most part, we buy high quality extra virgin olive oil from our regular grocery store, but we love the occasional treat, like a can from Costa Digiano, an organic farm we were lucky enough to visit in Italy.The picture above of me and my three sons on that farm? Totally gratuitous.

  2. Grapeseed oil. Nearly 16 years ago, our friends pooled their resources and gave us a fabulous wedding gift, an enormous, high quality soup pot, a heavy duty ladle to match, a soup cookbook, some fancy vinegar and a large bottle of grapeseed oil. Truth? We didn't know what the oil was, but I did some reading and we enjoyed it immensely, using it sparingly, as it was a real treat given our youthful, minuscule food budget. One of the best things about being older is that I can almost always afford grapeseed oil. It has a high smoke point, and works well for frying. It also has very little taste, which makes it perfect for salad dressings, stir-fries, mayonnaise and any other dish where I don't want the taste of the oil to be a feature.

  3. Toasted sesame oil. We enjoy a lot of Asian style noodle and rice dishes, as well as stir-fries. A dash of high quality toasted sesame oil is often the perfect last-minute addition to round out the flavor of those dishes. It also adds depth to salad dressings and is a tasty addition to plain vegetables. This oil is meant for finishing dishes, not cooking, and you need very little to add a lot of flavor.

And the one more oil that might be nice? Don't hate. I know it's trendy, but sometimes things become trendy for a reason — they're awesome. And coconut oil is awesome. Whether I'm using it for popcorn or as a substitute for butter in baking, coconut oil always tastes great. I actually keep two jars, one for the kitchen, and one for the bathroom, because it makes great hair conditioner and body oil. (Helpful hint: Beware a friendly dog when using coconut oil as a moisturizer. My dog loves it. He and I have reached an agreement. If I give him one bite when I'm finished moisturizing, he promises not to lick me to get his share. He stares at me patiently while I moisturize, waiting for his bite.) In fact, maybe you should keep a jar of coconut oil in every room of your home!

By the way, it may not count as an oil, but we also love the jar of bacon grease we keep in the fridge. My oldest son recently informed me, "Mom, you know that bacon grease is really good for cooking? I've been using it a lot." Which he discovered all on his own. I think we might have a cook on our hands!

What oils are essential in your kitchen? And what are some you keep for special dishes?

(Image credits: Anne Wolfe Postic)