Cooking with oil, what’s the smoke point?
There has been plenty of media attention on the different smoking points of various cooking oils. You may find that this has driven you away from cooking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil – well, we are here to give you the facts so that you can decide for yourselves.
The smoke point of an oil or fat is the temperature at which volatile compounds emerge (typically you can see a bluish smoke coming off the oil) such as free fatty acids and bi-products of oxidation, which eventually turn into soot. The smoke point is an indication of the upper temperature limit to which a particular oil should be heated for cooking, above which it isn’t good for you.
As mentioned elsewhere, it’s pretty important not to burn your food in general, and this applies to all ingredients, including oil. It’s not always easy when we are cooking on gas in particular, but we seriously shouldn’t need temperatures to be so high – so it takes an extra 5 minutes to get supper on the table, no big deal, and you haven’t burnt anything by rushing!
The below chart summarises various smoke points of different oils/fats. The main point I draw your attention to is the quality column. It may surprise you to know that if you are buying unrefined Rapeseed oil for example, the smoke point is surprisingly low at 105°C. Unrefined Coconut Oil fares slightly better but is still perhaps lower than you would expect at 177°C.
The fundamental facts to take away with you are that if you need to cook at high temperatures, the highest smoke point is Avocado oil at a remarkable 270°C and highest quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil fares much better than many expect with a smoke point of 207°C – hot enough for almost all cooking needs.