The oil you use is key when making the perfect batch of French fries. Some oils work better than others to achieve crispy and fluffy fries.
We’ll look at some of the best oils for French fries and discuss why each oil is a good choice so you can make the best decision for your fry-making needs.
Read on to learn more about what makes the best oil for French fries.
What To Look for When Selecting Oils for Deep Frying French Fries
Before diving into the best oil for French fries, it helps to know what to look for and why it matters. For example, some oils are healthier but they might alter the fry’s texture.
The smoke point, or burning point, is the most important factor in choosing the best oil for French fries.
Smoke indicates that the oil is starting to burn and ultimately break down. As oil breaks down, it releases chemicals into the food. These chemicals can alter the flavor and even introduce free radicals into your food.
Since oils typically start smoking between 325° and 520° Fahrenheit, the wrong choice can have a massive impact. While you don’t need a smoke point that’s off the charts, choose oils with a higher smoke point, somewhere between 400° and 450° Fahrenheit, for the best fries.
Another consideration is the oil’s natural flavor. Oils with strong or distinct flavors can alter the taste of your French fries. A neutral oil is your best bet unless you want to enhance the fry’s flavor to complement other dishes.
Refined vs. Unrefined Oils
All oil is either pressed or extracted from something, like nuts or vegetables. After extraction, manufacturers can package the oil or process it further.
Unrefined oils are those packaged after extraction. You may see labels like cold-pressed, raw, or virgin. There are three things to remember about unrefined oils:
- It retains more of its natural flavors.
- Unrefined oil has a lower smoke point, making them less desirable for high-heat cooking or frying.
- Raw oils don’t last as long in your pantry.
Refined oils undergo additional processes after extraction, like filtering or heating. These processes remove some components and can break down the oils to achieve three things:
- Get a more neutral flavor.
- Increase the smoke point.
- Extend the product’s shelf life.
Obviously, both types of oil have a place in our kitchens, but refined oils work better for frying.
Fats and Fatty Acids
We hear a lot about fats and what they do to our bodies. Interestingly, not all fat is bad for your body, and some oils can deliver the healthy dose you need. It’s important to understand the differences in oils and what they provide for your body to make a good choice in terms of flavor, texture, and health.
Fat is the compound that contains the fatty acids our bodies need to carry out basic functions.
Fatty acids fall under one of three categories, saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Saturated fats usually come from animals; monounsaturated and polyunsaturated types come from plants or seafood.
When discussing oils, you will need to consider the fats and fatty acids they provide. Our bodies need fatty acids but cannot produce them, so we ingest them through supplements or foods with unsaturated fats that contain these fatty acids.
Most oils provide one of two types: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Our bodies need both of these fatty acids, but you need a balanced amount of each to maintain equilibrium.
Omega-3 fatty acids support cell health and a host of other tasks, including reducing inflammation.
Consider nut and seed oils for unsaturated fats, while avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil provides omega-3s. Omega-6 fatty acids support cell health and growth but can cause inflammation.
Price and Availability
One of the best things about French fries is the cost. Potatoes are relatively inexpensive, so choosing an overly expensive oil defeats the purpose. For example, avocado oil is good for you and has a high smoke point, but it will cost you.
Finding a balance between healthy components, flavor, price, and a desirable smoke point is the sweet spot for French fry makers. Now that you know a bit more about what to look for, let’s discuss the various options for making French fries.
What Is the Healthiest Oil for Deep Frying?
Deep-fried and healthy don’t necessarily go together, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a healthier option for prepping your favorite side dish.
Canola oil might be the ideal oil for making French fries. It checks all of the boxes, including the price. You can buy canola oil in bulk for a few bucks and it has a desirable smoke point, around 470° Fahrenheit.
You can expect a neutral flavor with canola oil. It also happens to be low in saturated fats while offering a healthy dose of monounsaturated fats.
As mentioned above, avocado oil is one of the most expensive oils you can get. However, it’s healthy and has a high smoke point of 520° Fahrenheit, making it ideal for deep frying anything.
It is one of the healthiest options available with a desirable helping of fats and fatty acids. If you splurge on avocado oil, prepare for the slightly nutty undertones it adds to your food.
Safflowers are orangish-yellow blooms on a spiky plant, which may seem like an odd choice for cooking oil. Yet, the seeds from these plants yield an oil with a high smoke point (510° Fahrenheit) and a neutral flavor.
This oil is a decent choice in terms of healthiness because it contains unsaturated fatty acids and may reduce inflammation.
Grapeseed oil is a good choice for many things, like searing food and as a salad dressing. It has high amounts of polyunsaturated fats, making it one of the healthier options. You even get a mild flavor that won’t overpower your fries.
The problem with grapeseed oil is the smoke point. At around 420° Fahrenheit, it won’t yield super crispy fries without a burnt aftertaste.
Rice Bran Oil
Rice bran oil is another popular option for its health benefits and light flavor. This oil has a high smoke point of 450° or higher, meaning you can also churn out a crisp French fry.
It’s one of the top choices for replacing cooking oils with trans fats because rice bran oil has loads of monounsaturated fats that are good for your heart and arteries. Rice bran oil is naturally organic, non-GMO, and more sustainable than other options.
People often list coconut oil as a healthy option, and it is a solid choice if you only consider the health benefits. Unfortunately, the low smoke point (around 350° Fahrenheit) and strong flavor can lead to less than savory French fries.
Of note, refined coconut oil does have a slightly higher smoke point (400° Fahrenheit), making it somewhat functional for deep frying.
The additional processing eliminates some of the overpowering coconut scents for a more neutral flavor. However, refined coconut oil lacks some health benefits, making it less desirable.
This option is another controversial choice that offers monounsaturated fats and delivers a neutral flavor. Though it has a high smoke point, around 450° Fahrenheit, it’s not as stable as other oils at that temperature.
Sustainability is another concern with palm oil. Manufacturing palm oil is costly, time-consuming, and not eco-friendly.
Olive Oil for French Fries
Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, widely known for its health benefits. It might even be a healthier, tastier option for French fries.
Extra virgin olive is an excellent choice for a neutral flavor and positive health benefits. Since it’s not as processed, extra virgin olive oil has antioxidants and a more favorable fat profile.
The low smoke point has long been a drawback for some people. Typical smoke points range from 350° to 410° Fahrenheit, coming in lower than we would like for deep-frying. However, a recent study demonstrated that extra virgin olive oil can remain stable at higher temperatures (up to 460° Fahrenheit).
Regular olive oil offers fewer health benefits than the extra virgin style, but it has a higher smoke point. Choosing a light or regular olive oil can up your smoke point to around 470° Fahrenheit.
Sunflower Oil for French Fries
Sunflower oil holds a spot on the heart-healthy list because you get a lot of unsaturated fatty acids. It also has a relatively mild flavor and high smoke point, around 450° Fahrenheit.
There are two major downsides to making French fries with sunflower oil. It’s an expensive oil, and since you shouldn’t repeatedly reuse frying oil, sunflower oil isn’t cost-effective.
The other drawback is that there are some concerns about the actual health benefits of deep frying with sunflower oil. You may get a release of aldehyde, a potential carcinogen and there are some concerns that too much sunflower oil could increase inflammation in the body.
Other Vegetable Oils for French Fries
Vegetable oils may be the old faithful of cooking oils since they are so versatile and readily available in most kitchens. They are also some of the more budget-friendly options, especially if you do a lot of deep frying.
Many vegetable oils contribute a neutral flavor, meaning you’ll taste more of your food and less oil. They also have smoke points ranging between 400° and 450° Fahrenheit.
You may get a crisp, tasty fry with vegetable oil, but you may want to pay close attention to the type you choose. While all vegetable oils come from nuts, fruits, and plants, they don’t all have the same nutritional properties.
Like other vegetable oils, corn oil has a high smoke point and neutral flavor. Corn oil has a rather high smoke point, even among vegetable oils. At around 450° Fahrenheit, you can expect a crisp exterior without the burnt undertones.
The downside is that corn oil is highly processed with an unsavory fat profile. Even though you pick up some vitamin E, you also get an overdose of omega-6 fatty acids.
Soybean oil is incredibly popular for frying, cost-effective, and readily available throughout the food industry. It’s more durable than other oils, up there with canola oil, and has a high smoke point between 450° and 475° Fahrenheit.
Healthwise, soybean oil may be one of the better vegetable oils for you. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) noted that soybean oil may reduce your risk of heart disease. Soybean oil also contains omega-3 fatty acids that our bodies love.
Peanut oil technically classifies as a vegetable oil since it comes from the plant’s seeds. It follows the vegetable oil profile with a high smoke point, between 440° and 450° Fahrenheit. Peanut oil also has a neutral to slightly nutty taste, making it an excellent choice for French fries.
Unfortunately, peanut oil may not be the best choice for your health. Though you get plenty of vitamin E, you also get a dose of omega-6 fatty acids.
Canola oil may be the best oil for French fries because it balances the main concerns in a cost-effective package. You get a neutral flavor, a larger dose of healthier fats, and a higher smoke point.
That said, there are other options that alter the flavor, texture, and fat content of this traditional side dish. It’s important to select an oil with a high smoke point to get that crisp exterior without them tasting slightly burnt.
If you have health concerns you just have to remember a few things. Unsaturated fats are better than saturated fats and you need a healthy balance of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6s.
You just might have to play around with a few different oils to find the kind you like best. At the end of the day, the best oil for french fries is the one that works best for you.