Find out which oils can stand the heat and which ones will go up in smoke with our list of smoke points.
So, you know how we’re always cooking with animal fats like butter and vegetable oils like olive oil? Well, if you want your food to taste good and be healthy, then you have to know about the smoke point.
Every fat and oil has a unique smoke point (some higher than others). It’s the temperature at which the oil in your pan starts to break down and give off smoke. When that happens, the oil’s flavor and nutritional profile can change, and harmful compounds can form in the pan. In other words, it’s the temperature you don’t want to exceed when you’re using it.
Scientists can’t agree on just how harmful those compounds are. Some say that overheated oils can become bad for you, and others claim it’s not as bad as they say. Even so, there’s one thing that nobody can argue with: heating most oils past their smoke point makes them taste weird. Like, really weird. Like, acrid, bitter, or just off.
Even if you’re not too worried about the health risks, you still want to avoid that because it’s just going to leave your dish tasting weird. So, for the sake of taste, you want to make sure you’re using an oil with a smoke point that’s appropriate for the cooking method and the desired heat level.
Before we get to the specifics — we have a whole table of smoke points for you — I wanted to let you in on a little secret. The smoke point isn’t a fixed value. It can vary depending on how the oil was processed, stored, and handled. Although we talk of it as a number, it’s more like a range.
Besides, the smoke point can change as the oil is reused and reheated. So it’s something to keep in mind when you’re selecting and reusing oil, but it isn’t the only factor you need to consider. There are also things like flavor, nutritional content, and cost to think about. Keep that in mind.
Smoke Points of Fats and Oils
|Cooking Fat/Oil||Smoke Point||Heat|
|Avocado oil, refined||520°F / 271°C / Gas Mark 10||Highest|
|Rice bran oil||490°F / 254°C / Gas Mark 10||Highest|
|Mustard oil||490°F / 254°C / Gas Mark 10||Highest|
|Avocado oil, unrefined||480°F / 249°C / Gas Mark 9||High|
|Pomace oil||465°F / 240°C / Gas Mark 9||High|
|Clarified butter (ghee)||450°F / 232°C / Gas Mark 8||High|
|Corn oil||450°F / 232°C / Gas Mark 8||High|
|Palm oil||450°F / 232°C / Gas Mark 8||High|
|Peanut oil||450°F / 232°C / Gas Mark 8||High|
|Safflower oil||450°F / 232°C / Gas Mark 8||High|
|Soybean oil||450°F / 232°C / Gas Mark 8||High|
|Sunflower oil||440°F / 227°C / Gas Mark 8||Medium-high|
|Sesame oil||410°F / 210°C / Gas Mark 7||Medium-high|
|Canola oil||400°F / 204°C / Gas Mark 6||Medium-high|
|Tallow||400°F / 204°C / Gas Mark 6||Medium-high|
|Walnut oil||400°F / 204°C / Gas Mark 6||Medium-high|
|Grapeseed oil||390°F / 199°C / Gas Mark 5||Medium|
|Chicken fat (schmaltz)||375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5||Medium|
|Duck fat||375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5||Medium|
|Extra virgin olive oil||375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5||Medium|
|Turkey fat||375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5||Medium|
|Lard||375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5||Medium|
|Shortening||360°F / 182°C / Gas Mark 4||Medium|
|Butter||350°F / 177°C / Gas Mark 4||Medium-low|
|Coconut oil||350°F / 177°C / Gas Mark 4||Medium-low|
|Margarine||325°F / 163°C / Gas Mark 3||Medium-low|
How to Select Your Fats and Oils
Some fats and oils are refined, which means they’ve been processed to get rid of impurities. Others are unrefined, which means they’ve been extracted from the nut, seed, or fruit using cold methods.
Canola oil, palm oil, and sunflower oil are refined oils because they’re extracted with chemicals. Butter is churned from milk or cream, and extra virgin olive oil is pressed cold from the pulp of ripe olives, so they are unrefined.
Now, here’s the thing — refined oils are considered less healthy because they’ve been processed and don’t have as many nutrients as unrefined oils. But the upside is that they have a higher smoke point, which means they can handle higher heats without breaking down and producing smoke.
Unrefined oils are considered healthier because they’ve got all of those extra nutrients in there, but those nutrients burn at high heat, so their smoke point is lower. When you’re cooking with oil, you’ve got to think about whether you want the health benefits of an unrefined oil or the high-heat capabilities of a refined oil. So choosing oil is really a trade-off.
Remember that how healthy an oil is also depends on the type of fats — called lipids — that it contains. An oil can be unrefined and still contain a lot of saturated fats, which are considered bad for you.
All fats and cooking oils have a smoke point, and it’s a good idea to pay attention to that when you’re picking out what you’re going to use to cook your food.
Fats and oils with a high smoke point are best for high-heat cooking methods like searing, grilling, broiling, and frying because they can handle the high heat without breaking down and producing smoke. Those with a low smoke point are better for medium-heat cooking, baking, and roasting because they won’t break down over moderate heat.
The next time you’re picking out a fat or oil for your cooking, keep the smoke point in mind and choose one that’s appropriate for the heat level you’ll be using.