Let’s talk oils and vinegars. I’ve received a lot of questions about how to properly stock a condiments pantry for those cooking more than ever, so I’ll cover this topic with 3 posts - oils/vinegars, umami agents, salt/pepper/sweeteners.
To start, I like to create 2 groups within each of these categories: ‘cooking’ and ‘finishing’. Cooking condiments are those applicable in many cooking methods because they are neutral, less expensive & used in greater quantities. Finishing condiments are used to impart a specific flavor to a dish; typically specialty products needed in smaller amounts, and best not subject to heat. In our current situation, I recommend favoring the 'cooking' category to give yourself more flexibility, and selectively buy a few 'finishing' bottles for special occasions, or a cuisine you’re particularly fond of.
For oils/fats, I recommend having plenty of a neutral cooking oil like canola for everyday use (e.g. sautéing, dressings) plus a fat that can give dishes more depth (I especially love beef tallow). You can judge what condiments fall in the middle of the spectrum depending on your habits — for me, peanut oil & toasted sesame oil are two that I use often enough I'll stock despite their more 'limited’ range, for many others it’s EVOO. On the finishing side, my fave is green Sichuan peppercorn oil — this should be something a drizzle of will make your dish feel special.
I have a lot of vinegars because the element of sour is so instrumental to making food taste good. Besides white vinegar, good neutral options: apple cider and rice. Both are versatile enough to be used in big quantities, be heated, and in dashes. (My ‘middle’ vinegars are black vinegar and mirin.) Finishing & specialty vinegars are ones you want to taste in the final product — I like a mix of fruit-forward, lighter vinegars (e.g. white balsamic, kombucha) for pickles, delicate sauces, even desserts and a few hefty ones like aged balsamic.
Hopefully this structure was helpful for you to build up & leverage your condiments. All the brands/types pictured above not imperative, build your pantry based off your own preferences. Feel free to contact me with any questions and/or more suggestions!