Choosing the right oil is crucial when cooking steak. By reading our analysis of three common cooking oils (olive oil, sunflower oil and vegetable oil), you’ll be able to choose the ideal oil for every method of cooking steak.
Should You use Olive Oil to Cook Steak?
Olive oil can be used to cook steak, but it’s best used at medium to low temperatures.
Olive oil is an integral part of European cuisine, used to prepare steak dishes including Italian tagliata, Spanish carne asada, and French daube à la boeuf.
It has a smoke-point of around 190–207°C (374–405°F) but loses nutritional value and flavour at lower temperatures.
For slow-cooking and low-temperature cooking, olive oil is an ideal choice with high nutritional value. Alternate oils are better suited to pan-frying, grilling or barbecuing steak.
Should You Cook Steak in Vegetable Oil?
Vegetable oil is an abundant source of monounsaturated fats. Vegetable oil is flavourless and has a smoke point of around 220°C (428°F).
This moderately high smoke point makes it an ideal oil to cook steak in. It can withstand the high temperatures produced when frying and grilling steak in vegetable oil.
However, the nutritional value of vegetable oil degrades at high temperatures. Vegetable oil can also develop bitter, ‘off’ tastes when cooked at high temperatures for extended periods of time.
Is Sunflower Oil Good for Searing Steak?
Sunflower oil is arguably the best oil to cook steak in. It’s composed of four fatty acids; oleic acid (a form of omega-9) and linoleic acid (a form of omega-6) and in much smaller amounts, palmitic and stearic acids.
There are two major types of sunflower oil: unrefined (light-amber colour) and refined (pale-yellow or clear colour).
Unrefined sunflower oil is not a good choice to cook your steak. It breaks down quickly when heated and is better used raw or during low-temperature cooking.
However, refined sunflower oil has the opposite properties. Unlike olive oil and vegetable oil, refined sunflower oil can withstand searing-hot temperatures, due to a high smoke point of 232°C (450°F). It has a neutral taste and odour, even at high temperatures.
If you’re planning on heating your steak to very high temperatures, refined sunflower oil is arguably the best choice. It’s flavourless, easy-to-source, cost-effective and the go-to steak cooking oil in modern cookery.
In general, cooking oils with a smoke point of at least 232°C (450°F) are the best for cooking steak as they can reach the high temperatiures needed for searing steak without producing smoke.
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