Rapeseed Oil vs Olive Oil for Cooking

When choosing cooking oil, the modern chef (and home cook!) has so many options. From infused oils for a fast way to create big flavours, limited edition oils for a touch of luxury, to oils for deep frying.

The strength of flavour and smoking point (the temperature which an oil can be heated before it smokes) are all important considerations.

Two prized pantry staples that everyone should have in their kitchens are rapeseed oil and olive oil. Both oils are versatile all-rounders when it comes to frying, searing or sautéing, but each possesses distinct characteristics.

What are the differences between olive oil and rapeseed oil?

Olive oil and rapeseed oil are both plant-derived oils, with unique flavour profiles and mouthfeel:

Origin & Taste of Rapeseed Oil and Olive Oil:

  • Rapeseed Oil: Pressed from the seeds of the rapeseed plant, this oil has a delicate, slightly nutty flavour. Known as "canola oil" in North America, rapeseed oil is celebrated for its versatility.

  • Olive Oil: Pressed from olives, its flavour can range from intense and peppery olive oil to soft and fruity olive oil, depending on the variety, growing region, and processing method.

Nutritional Profile of Rapeseed Oil and Olive Oil::

  • Rapeseed Oil: Rich in both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, it boasts a balance beneficial to heart health. It's also a good source of vitamin E.

  • Olive Oil: Known for its heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, particularly when it's extra virgin olive oil.

Smoke Point of Rapeseed Oil and Olive Oil::

  • Rapeseed Oil: Typically possesses a high smoke point (around 230-240°C or 446-464°F), making it suitable for a variety of cooking methods. [the copy for the organic rapeseed on the SC website says not to heat it above 100°c, so I haven’t linked to it]

  • Olive Oil: Varies by type. While extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of about 190-210°C (375-410°F), regular olive oil can handle temperatures up to 240°C (465°F).

Which is better to fry with?

For frying, both rapeseed and olive oils have their merits:

  • Rapeseed Oil: Its high smoke point and mild flavour make rapeseed oil an excellent choice for deep frying. Foods fried in rapeseed oil tend to be crispy, without an overpowering taste from the oil itself.
  • Olive Oil: Regular olive oil is suitable for frying at higher temperatures than extra virgin, but both are fantastic for shallow frying or sautéing, when the oil temperature rarely reaches high enough temperatures to smoke. The unique flavour of olive oil can add a delightful Mediterranean touch to fried dishes, like pan fried seabass with piquillo peppers.

Rapeseed oil or olive oil?

Which oil is better for searing?

Searing requires a high temperature to create a perfect, caramelised crust:

  • Rapeseed Oil: Thanks to its high smoke point, rapeseed oil can withstand the high temperatures of searing without burning, making it an excellent choice for achieving a golden-brown crust on meat or vegetables.
  • Olive Oil: While you can sear with regular olive oil, in general you want to ensure that the oil doesn't exceed its smoke point. Using olive oil for searing imparts a distinct and delicious flavour.

Is rapeseed oil healthier than olive oil? 

The concept of "healthier" can be subjective, depending on dietary needs and nutritional goals, but both oils contain heart-friendly properties.

Extra virgin olive oil has a higher number of bioactive nutrients such as polyphenols, which are known to have antioxidant properties, but it is also more sensitive to heat due to its lower smoke point.

Extra virgin olive oil can lose some of its health benefits when heated. Refined oils have a higher smoke point, but they often have less of the beneficial plant chemicals that we find in olive oils in the first place.

  • Rapeseed Oil: Offers a balanced ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids, which is beneficial for cardiovascular health. It's low in saturated fats, making it a heart-friendly choice.
  • Olive Oil: Packed with antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, olive oil is often linked to various health benefits, from anti-inflammatory properties to promoting heart health. The Mediterranean diet, which includes olive oil as a staple, is often hailed for its health-promoting qualities.

The choice between rapeseed oil and olive oil comes down to the culinary task at hand and personal preference.

While rapeseed oil's balanced fatty acids and high smoke point make it versatile for high-heat cooking, olive oil's rich flavour profile and health benefits make it a kitchen essential.

Having both oils to hand means you can always get the best of both worlds.


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