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What is the Smoking Point of Oil?

Coconut oil can be purchased either refined or unrefined, though refined is best for high-heat cooking.
Unrefined olive oil has a lower smoking point than refined cooking oils.
Peanut oil has a high smoking point and mild flavor ideal for cooking with high heat.
Avocado oil is an unrefined oil.
Peanut oil, which has a high smoking point.
Oil from the safflower plant has a high smoke point.
Cooking oils.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2014
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In cooking, it is extremely important to select the best oil. Cooking an oil above its smoking point can result in poor flavor and burning. Oil is said to reach this point when it begins to emit smoke, and many oils have a flash point very close to the same temperature, meaning that the oil can potentially catch fire. This is not usually a desired effect when cooking, so most cooks keep a library of oils in order to enable the selection of the best oil for the cooking job.

When oil reaches the smoking point, it begins to degrade. It will taste bad, adding an acrid smell and taste to the food. The smoke forms substances that may be carcinogens, and should probably not be breathed or consumed. In addition to tasting bad and potentially being dangerous, oil which has reached this temperature is not suitable for cooking because it will burn the food.

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Cooks need to select an oil based on the type of cooking job. In general, unrefined oils that are harvested using cold extraction have a lower smoking point than other oils. Unrefined oils include olive oil, avocado oil, and many nut oils. They tend to have a better flavor, and are excellent for use in sauteing, some baking, and for dressings. This type of oil should be used if the cooking vessel is not going to exceed 350°F (176°C), and should be selected on the basis of the flavor it will lend to the food.

Refined oils are extracted using heat and are therefore more able to withstand high temperatures, with a smoking point that is often double that of unrefined oils. In theory, any unrefined oil can also be made in a refined form. Refined oils tend to be less flavorful and will also be clear and free of sediment. They should be used for high heat cooking, including deep frying.

If oil in a pan does start smoking, the pan should be removed from heat and allowed to cool. The overheated oil should be discarded and replaced with one with a greater heat tolerance. Cooks should be aware that some blends of refined oil have a lower heat tolerance, while the best refined oils for high heat cooking are peanut, canola, safflower, and soy. Many cooks prefer peanut oil because it has a lighter feel when used in deep frying applications. Most oils will perform better if heated gradually, rather than dropped into an intensely hot pan. If heated and cooled slowly, some oils can be reused, although they should be discarded if they begin to discolor or smell rancid.

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Discuss this Article

serenesurface
Post 9

Can anyone give me any information on the smoking point of sesame oil and coconut oil?

These oils are used often in Asian cuisine but I've never cooked with them before.

discographer
Post 8

@fBoyle-- I think olive oil (not virgin olive oil, as you said) is considered refined so you can fry with it.

But don't forget that it also includes unrefined oil so if the temperature of the oil goes above 400 degrees Fahrenheit, the oil is going to start to burn. I think the smoking point of olive oil is a little less than this, around 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

So maybe it's better to choose another refined oil with a higher smoking point for frying to be on the safe side. Safflower oil is probably the best choice. I think it has the highest smoking point out of all refined oils. I personally use corn oil because it's easier to find and it also has a really high smoking point.

fBoyle
Post 7

So what does the smoking point of oil mean when it comes to deep frying foods? I know refined oils are best for this but since frying can take a long time, will the oil go above its smoking point eventually?

Which oil do you guys prefer for frying?

And what's the consensus on oils that are a combination of refined an unrefined oils? For example, I believe regular olive oil (not virgin) is a combination of virgin olive oil which is unrefined and vegetable oil which is refined. Is the smoking point of olive oil suitable for frying then?

JackWhack
Post 6

@turquoise – I also pour my oil into the skillet before exposing it to the heat of the stove. I'm just too scared of the sizzling that occurs when I pour room temperature oil into a hot pan, and I never know if I have exceeded the smoking point or not until the oil hits the pan.

Food definitely tastes better when you get the oil hot before placing the food into it. Meat will brown more quickly this way, and if you are cooking something like steak that needs to be browned rather quickly in order to remain tender, it's a great method.

Kristee
Post 5

@shell4life – I know what you mean. I do like the flavor of canola oil, but it is not good when you need to cook something at a high temperature for twenty minutes or so.

I used to make my fried chicken with canola oil, but the oil would start smoking before the chicken was done, and little black bits would form on the bottom of the pan. The exterior of the chicken tasted weird, too.

I started using peanut oil for frying chicken, and it works much better. The flavor is really nice, and I haven't had any issues with smoking and burning.

shell4life
Post 4

Refined olive oil seems to have a higher smoke point than refined canola oil. That is why I like to use it when cooking vegetables.

I once tried frying some green beans in canola oil, but it got smoky way too quickly. I have discovered that I actually prefer the flavor of beans cooked in olive oil, and I can cook them a little longer when I use it.

I like to fry them with onions and garlic, and the longer I leave them in the oil, the more flavorful they will become. I don't even bother with canola oil anymore.

turquoise
Post 3

I use olive oil for all of my cooking needs, except for frying in which case I use a vegetable oil or sunflower oil. I always pour the oil in the pot or pan before putting it on the stove. I'm not sure if this is the right away, but I put my hand above the pan and can feel the heat emanating when the oil is heated up and ready. I've made the mistake of putting in fries to fry before the oil is ready, it absorbed so much extra oil. So waiting for the oil to reach the right temperature really makes food healthier. I never ever reuse frying oil because I heard that reusing it creates carcinogenic substances in the oil. Of course, if you heat oil to the point of smoking, that has health risks as well.

mendocino
Post 1

There are some new spray oils on the market made specifically for high heat cooking, like broiling. They are made from partially hydrogenated oils, that is why they can take higher heat.

Even though one might want to avoid hydrogenated oils, using a small amounts might not be that bad, especially since so many calories will be eliminated.

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