5 of the best oils for flat top grills, along with a detailed buyer's guide of what to consider when choosing the best oil for flat top grilling.
Is there such a thing as the best oil?
We’ll tell you here, now, and up front—no.
Asking "What is the best oil for grilling?" is like asking "What is the best seasoning for meat?"
Choosing the best oil will vary from situation to situation because we all like different flavors, some folks have allergies and others don’t, some oils just don’t “go” with particular meats, and different oils are all suited for cooking at different temperatures.
But one great truth is this —you can use almost any kind of oil on your flat top grill or griddle if you know its limitations and what you’re trying to achieve.
Flat Top Grilling Oils - The Great Debate
Slip into a conversation between the grillers on Reddit about the best flat top grill oil and you will find quite a wide array of differing opinions.
There are die-hard lovers of flax oil as the best guardian oil for a cast iron pan, and others who snort at flax’s low smoke point while cheerfully spritzing away with their dollar squeezy bottle of vegetable oil.
The common thread through most arguments, thank heaven, is that the most important thing is to take good care of your flat top grill and then the cooking will take care of itself, whichever oil you prefer to use.
Clean and season your grill before and after every single use.
Although there are hundreds of oils available in the Amazon Pantry, we’ve narrowed down your search to our favorite five.
We’ve covered different smoke points, budgets, and flavors.
Following that, we’ve provided a short guide to the various controversies surrounding particular types of cooking oil and tried to bust a few myths.
- Will Extra Virgin olive oil really dry up and scorch your food?
- Is a smoke point an actual fire warning?
- Do refined oils really pose a danger to your cooking?
We’ve set out the rationale behind the debating sides with each of these issues so that you can decide which oils are going to work for you.
In a Hurry to Get Grilling? Here are our Top 5 Best Oils For Flat Top Grills
OUR TOP PICK
Pompeian oils are popular for their authentic taste and their very successful non-stick qualities.
There are a number of coconut oils out there, both in fluid and spray form, but we love this one for its eco-friendly production, the simple recipe, the decent smoke point (see the chart in the buyer’s guide) and the years of experience that Pompeian have in producing good quality oils in a range of delivery formats.
Coconut is not one of the neutral oils, but the coconut flavor is subtle. It’s great for adding those Pacific Rim tribal notes to poultry dishes.
There’s something decadent and extravagant about vibrant summer ingredients with a hint of tiki.
If you’re wondering whether the compatibility with meat stops here, it also works well to balance the earthiness of veal, and as a Mongolian Barbecue ingredient (flash-fried beef strips in the sashimi style with stir-fried vegetables).
If you do a lot of Thai cookery, then this oil is invaluable.
- Good value for money
- Good non-stick qualities
- Nice coverage with pumps that work well
- A well-balanced flavor
- A versatile ingredient
- This is not non-flammable: keep away from naked flames
This is a non-spray pouring oil, keeping things nice and simple. You’d have thought that peanut comes with a strong taste, but it’s actually classified as a neutral oil.
The sweet-savory tang is nowhere near as pervasive as you’d imagine, and it has a decently high smoke point. It’s good for sweet and savory foods, and it’s inexpensive at $0.26c per fluid ounce (floz).
So, where’s the bad?
Well, it carries a bit of a risk if you’re entertaining.
0.6% of Americans have a peanut allergy.
It’s usually safer to reserve its use for within your own household before subjecting guests with unknown allergies to its possible consequences.
- Spreads evenly
- Not a strong taste
- Good smoke point
- High allergy risk
Flax seed oil has a lot of fans.
It’s great in salad dressings, for example, but it does not hold up fabulously well to heat with a low smoke point, so how has it made it into our top six list?
Well, it’s very healthy, for a start. It contains a high quantity of Omega-3 and 6, and potassium, which accelerates the delivery of nutrients to your cells.
The function of flax oil is not so much as an oil to cook your food but as an oil to season a cast iron pan.
It’s classified as a drying oil, which means that its function in the context is to provide a protective layer between your food, the actual cooking oil you’ll be using, and the cast iron pan itself.
Apply it in a very thin layer before cooking as part of the seasoning process and use it after clean-up to keep that protective barrier in place until next time.
Just don’t try to sear steak with it.
- Great in dressings (emulsifies well)
- Neutral enough for marinades (in addition to an actual frying oil)
- Extends the lifetime of your cast iron pan
- It’s an auxiliary oil rather than a frying or searing oil
- It’s not cheap ($1.08/floz)
This is a soy-based non-flammable, non-stick oil spray, using potassium sorbate as the preservative.
Weber know their grills, and this spray represents versatility, safety and convenience in one triplet set of cans.
Typically when you use a spray, you either need to use it on the range when the burners on either side are switched off, or limit its use on a sealed griddle with no open flames.
This non-stick spray will not flare up. You can use this on gas or charcoal, on direct or indirect heat. On flat top grills it mists quickly and easily, and you can top it up between batches of food if need be.
The majority of customers have found the non-stick qualities to be excellent.
An element of true convenience is being able to give the top of your burger or bratwurst a quick spritz before turning them over. It makes it much easier to hold a conversation and keep your eye on the food at the same time.
You can also use this as a basting spray for vegetables to be roasted in the oven. Like we say, versatile.
- High convenience
- Good, even coverage
- Lower calories from fat
- At $1.22/oz, you’re paying for the brand, not the quality
Safflower oil has one of the highest smoke points and it also has a very neutral flavor, so it’s one of the most versatile oils for a range of ingredients to be used on your flat top grill.
The fats in safflower oil are sturdy and slow to degrade, even at 500°. If you’re a hesitant cook or if you’re working through a lot of food with a high water content, then safflower oil is the most forgiving over the course of your cooking period.
It’s also fairly inexpensive. At $0.50c/floz, this one bottle is going to last you quite some time. It’s got an impressive life span in any case.
You can keep a bottle of safflower oil sealed for a couple of years and even once upon it will be good for 12 months, so long as you store it properly.
“Properly” means tightly resealed, and kept out of the light and the heat. It is a true pantry staple in every respect.
- Good value for money
- High smoke point
- Smoke point is only high on refined versions: unrefined safflower oils have a very low smoke point (225°F)
Best Oil For Flat Top Grill - Buyer’s Guide
Okay, so that’s a selection of some of our favorite oils to try out, the choices backed up by the loud and approving voices of the flat top grillers of Amazon.
Now we’ll look at the different factors to bear in mind when choosing an ideal oil, and we’ll explain why the suitability of some particular oils has been widely discussed (along with busting a couple of myths).
We’ve also sought to build in answers to your most commonly asked questions about oils for grilling, and we’ve dropped in a few more honorable mentions for brands selling different niche flavors.
Neutral Tastes & Budgets
Quite honestly, taste neutrality or compatibility is one of the major factors to take into consideration when considering what kind of oil to use.
Something like Canola Oil is inexpensive, neutrally flavored, and has a sufficiently high smoke point for most barbecuing and searing purposes.
Because 48floz bottles aren’t particularly easy to handle, a lot of cooks decant them into smaller squeezy containers for better control in distribution across the grill’s surface.
The biggest advantage of neutral oil is that, provided you can safely wipe down residue from your grill surface between one batch of food and the next, you don’t have to worry about carrying over oil flavors or experiencing too wild a gustatory clash.
The good news is that a more distinctly flavored or unusual oil doesn’t have to hit your budget that hard.
Sesame oil has a moderate smoke point (450°F/232°C) and is introduced in small quantities towards the end of Far-Eastern cooking to add a little nutty, umami warmth to a vegetable mix which accompanies any meat ingredients.
Top tip—it’s also great to loosen up a hummus if you don’t have any tahini to hand. Almond oil (for fried desserts) isn’t always extortionate in price, either. It’s just a case of shopping around.
The Smoke Point
This is the point at which the oil is sufficiently heated for the fatty acid to break down and create a gaseous vapor. Generally speaking, the higher the smoke point, the more versatile the oil in terms of baste-frying or searing.
Here is a list of the most common store cupboard oils, citing their quality and smoke points in degrees Fahrenheit.
- Avocado Oil – Refined – 520°
- Safflower Oil – Refined – 510°
- Coconut Oil – Refined (dry) – 450°
- Peanut Oil – Refined - 450°
- Sunflower Oil – Semi-Refined - 450°
- Canola Oil – Unrefined - 430-445°
- Olive Oil – Virgin - 410°
- Coconut Oil – Unrefined -350°
- Sesame Oil – Unrefined – 350°
- Flaxseed Oil – Unrefined – 225°
Another option for a high smoke point is to use beef tallow (rendered beef fat). With a smoke point of 420°F, this is a good option for a mid-range smoke point grease.
It has the consistency of vegetable shortening and is shelf stable, but it is also available in a spray.
For people trying to avoid seed oils, beef tallow is a good option.
Does a smoking oil mean it’s about to catch fire?
No, not immediately. You will need to cut out the heat, however, to give the oil a chance to recover.
This is much more easily managed with a gas grill, of course.
The problem is not that you’ll encounter a raging inferno right away, but that the fatty acids degrade quickly into a chemical called acrolein, which, as you can probably guess, gives the food an acrid taste.
It also creates free radicals in the fat cells, and nobody wants a carcinogenic oil.
Refined vs Unrefined
Refined oils have been given a harsh rap.
Refining processes do not need to involve bleach or irritant chemicals which are bad for us.
Many oils contain enzymes which do not play well with heat. They degrade rapidly, creating that ‘rancid’ taste we so badly hope to avoid with any cooking oil.
However, if you don’t like idea of using any kind of oil which has been bleached or deodorized (and we do have some sympathy for that point of view), then perhaps the oils to aim for are those which require the least treatment after their cold-pressing extraction process.
Examples are Extra Virgin olive oil, hazelnut oils, or hazelnut oils.
The Great Extra Virgin Olive Oil Debate
Because extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has such a huge presence in the world of salad dressings, it’s easy to write it off an oil that can’t handle heat because it’s not typically heard of as the pan oil of choice.
In fact, EVOO has a smoke point of around 400°, which puts it right in the middle of the smoke point range.
In fact, it stands up reasonably well to heat because of the medium-length fatty acid chains, compared to the shorter chains of an oil like unrefined coconut, for example.
So why don’t we see it boasted about as a superior frying technique on upscale restaurant menus, when those same menus detail just about every other cooking method (“simmered in a hydrophobic foam”) and narrows the ingredients’ provenance right down to the farm’s zip code?
Well, it’s not because they fear a kitchen fire, or limited control over the EVOO.
Chefs reserve EVOO for dressings and marinades because when you subject EVOO to intense heat, it breaks down the phenols and polyphenols inherent within the oil, which effectively strips it of phytonutrient benefits before it reaches smoke point.
If you’re happy to get your nutrients elsewhere for the day and you’ve found that you have nothing in your cupboards but EVOO, you can still use it for your burgers.
Mustard Oil—for External Use Only?
What are you supposed to do with mustard oil, if not cook with it?
The second question is easier to answer—it’s applied topically as a warming massage oil and sometimes used in hair treatments.
Mustard Oil is banned in many EU countries and in the US because of the high quantity of erucic acid, which was considered, following studies in the 1950s, to have had a role in the development of heart disease.
These results are clear in animals but the statistical significance of the correlation has yet to be proven among humans during studies on cell cultures.
In many southeast Asian countries, there is widespread rejection of the idea that mustard oil is bad for you.
Indeed, alongside ghee, it is one of the most popular forms of cooking fat in Northern and Eastern India because of its savory punch.
The proportions of erucic fatty acids notwithstanding, Mustard oil is full of monounsaturated fatty acids and it has one of the higher smoke points at 480°F/249°C.
As a cooking fat, it has a lot going for it.
This is why work has taken place over the last few years to work on the proportion of erucic acid in mustard oil to bring it beneath the 2% composition limit.
Because it’s now possible to create FDA-approved varieties of mustard oil, it’s been making an increasing appearance in the kitchens of many professional US chefs.
There’s a mustard oil for cooking available on Amazon, if you’d like to give it a shot. Yandilla is a fantastically flavorsome oil.
A little goes a long way and its natural stringency combines beautifully with far eastern goodies like flat onion pakoras, vegetable bean burgers, or grilled tomatoes.