Once upon a time, “cooking oil” in an average American kitchen meant vegetable oil. Or maybe a clump of melted-down lard to keep the cardiologists and undertakers in caviar. If you wanted to get really fancy, maybe you had some olive oil of undefined quality for making salad dressing.
Fast forward a few decades and suddenly the variety available at your local regular grocery store ranged somewhere between “intimidating” and “enraging,” and that's not even considering the cooking-oil stockpiles at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. These days, you have a shitload of choices. Avocado oil from avocados. Canola oil from, uh, canolas we guess? Baby oil from babies. They all have different characteristics, and those characteristics sometimes even match what you’ve heard about them. Here's everything you need to know about the basics.