Here’s What You Need to Know about Oils and their Smoke Point

cooking-oils

image: dinnertool.com

There is no shortage of fats to chose from when shopping at the supermarket. They come either in liquid form (oil) or solid (lard, butter, margarine). There are various ways to classify oils and fats, such as animal or plant based, their flavor, percentage of unsaturated vs saturated fatty acids, etc…

Another means to sort the oils is by their smoke point.

The smoke point is simply the temperature at which the oil’s chemical composition begins to change and it becomes something different. As you may already know, all oils are a collection of various types of fatty acids. At the smoke point, the oil breaks down into these individual fatty acids, also releasing glycerine molecules. The glycerine molecules are further broken into acrolein – the substance we smell and perceive as stinky, eye irritating  smoke.

As the oil breaks down, it loses its flavor and its nutritional benefits, so you want to make sure the oil you are using to saute your mushrooms or fry your onions does not pass its smoke point.

Here are the smoke points for some popular oils, ordered from high to low.

  • 520°F – Avocado oil
  • 460°F – Soybean oil (refined)
  • 400°-450°F – Canola Oil (the more refined, the higher the smoke point)
  • 400°F – Extra virgin olive oil
  • 375°F – Olive oil
  • 370°F – Lard
  • 250°-300°F – Butter

Please note that these values can vary widely depending on the specific oil you have in hand. The only way to really know is to start heating the oil and see what happens.

A popular misconception is that olive oil should not be used for frying because of their low smoke point. As you can see, that is not always the case. The reason some chefs don’t always use olive oil for frying is that imparts its strong flavor, unlike canola or soybean oils.

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  • Ann

    No peanut, coconut, or ghee. But avocado. No sesame.

  • http://twitter.com/greekdiet OliveTomato by Elena

    Thanks for clearing up the misconception about olive oil. And when cooking at home, you won’t reach the smoke point in a common household stovetop.

  • Brian

    No coconut oil? It’s getting a lot of noteriaty for its health benefits, and I believe it has a high smoking point as well.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mary-W-Lukens-Goodson/100000194585042 Mary W. Lukens Goodson

      The smoke point of coconut oil is 177 °C (351 °F).

  • Lisa

    How does olive oil (more refined than extra virgin) have a lower smoke point than EVOO?

    • LizTagami

      Refined oil has no poly phenols, thus does not hold up to heat. Likewise not all EVOO’s are the same; a fresher oil or one with naturally higher polyphenols will have a higher smoke point.

      • LDD

        I disagree. The more refined the oil, the higher the smoke point. See the link that Mary posted http://bbq.about.com/od/grillinghelp/a/aa061607a.htm. The only thing I can think of why Olive Oil is listed above with a 375 smoke point is that they are talking about a lower quality unrefined oil.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mary-W-Lukens-Goodson/100000194585042 Mary W. Lukens Goodson

    The smoke point of coconut oil is 177 °C (351 °F). For the rest:
    http://bbq.about.com/od/grillinghelp/a/aa061607a.htm

  • http://www.facebook.com/anthony.aadam Anthony Aadam

    THE POST IS VERY INFORMATIVE.

  • Lisa

    Grapeseed oii?

  • carol

    I think one of the main (or at least more sensible) reasons for not cooking with EVOO is that you destroy the flavor and the polyphenols. Even letting EVOO sit in a clear glass bottle, or open to the air too much can result in loss of nutritional and flavor benefits, due to oxidation, etc.

  • LizTagami

    Carol, studies show that you do not destroy the polyphenols when the oil is heated — they go into the food you’re cooking for at least two uses.

    • LizTagami

      … and after two uses, you should discard the oil.

  • vered lb

    it’s also important to note that there’s a difference between saturated and un saturated oils.
    it’s not just the smoking point

  • susan

    rice bran oil?

  • yoyo

    Oil clogs arteries!!! Stay away from it!!

  • GRAMAEIEIO

    What’s your take on coconut oil?

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Coconut oil is high in saturated fats. But they are made from different fatty acids than those is animal fats. There is controversy whether these fatty acids are harmful or not. Some will swear by them, others suggest caution. The jury is still out.