Cooking Oil Smoke Points And Why They Matter

Students taking online cooking courses discover how to prepare a wide range of dishes from a variety of culinary traditions. Before you dive into complex recipes, however, you must learn how to select the best kitchen tools and the right ingredients for common cooking situations. One question that’s sure to come up frequently is what cooking oil to use for a particular application.

When deciding which oil to reach for, smoke point is always one of the most important considerations. Understanding what that concept means and how it impacts the food you make will help you to build your skills, becoming more flexible when you work with recipes. Knowing the differences between oils will also allow you to develop your own dishes, ensuring they are properly cooked and fragrant.

What is a smoke point?

“The smoke point is the temperature where an oil starts to burn and give off smoke.”

Simply enough, the smoke point is the temperature where an oil starts to burn and give off smoke. That means the fats are starting to break down, which means you need to be cautious. Applying too much heat can lead to ruining the flavor and aroma of your food, possibly leaving yourself with watering eyes and a lingering smell in your kitchen.

As Serious Eats explained, unrefined oils that are bottled immediately after extraction may add distinctive flavor to the items you prepare, but they also tend to start burning at lower heats. On the other hand, oils that go through industrial refinement processes to eliminate heat-sensitive enzymes and minerals tend to have neutral flavors. Selecting the right oil can make a big difference in your cooking process and whether you get the tasty, perfectly cooked results you want.

Get to know your oils

Since using the wrong oil with high-heat cooking methods is a recipe for culinary disaster, you should always be aware of the temperature limitations for the oils in your cabinet. Get to know the smoke points for the oils you use frequently and always check before you make a substitution in a recipe. The Spruce provided a guide to the approximate smoke points of some of the most common oils, but keep in mind that the precise temperatures may vary due to impurities and other factors:

  • Avocado oil – 570 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Butter – 250 degrees
  • Refined canola oil – 400 degrees
  • Extra-virgin coconut oil – 350 degrees
  • Refined coconut oil – 450 degrees
  • Flax seed oil – 225 degrees
  • Lard – 370 degrees
  • Extra-virgin olive oil – 375 degrees
  • Extra-light olive oil – 468 degrees
  • Peanut oil – 450 degrees
  • Unrefined sesame oil – 350 degrees
  • Refined soybean oil – 460 degrees
  • Vegetable shortening – 360 degrees

How to choose the right oil for the job

Every type of oil has its own uses, and the are many factors to take into account when making your choice, beginning with the smoke point. For instance, extra-virgin olive oil can stand up to relatively low-heat cooking, such as sauteing vegetables on medium-high or roasting them in the oven. For frying at high heat, however, you’re better off with canola or peanut oil.

You can use extra-virgin olive oil or butter when cooking on a low heat.You can use extra-virgin olive oil or butter when cooking on a low heat.

While you want an oil with plenty of flavor for some dishes, others are better prepared with a neutral-tasting alternative. When stir-frying, your priority should be to choose a fat that will stand up to the high temperature and not interfere with the taste of your freshly browned ingredients.

Also keep in mind that gaining a higher smoke point can mean missing out on some of the dietary value of your oils. Sunflower and coconut oils lose many of their nutrients when they are refined.

Working toward a culinary arts certificate online will teach you a great deal about the wide variety of oils out there. Considering the relative smoke points of these cooking fats, as well as their flavors and nutritional content, will guide you to the right choice every time.

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