Cooking with oil the smoke point

High quality extra virgin olive oils (with low free fatty acids) have a high smoke point. They are an excellent choice, but an expensive one. Mass produced, low quality olive oils have a much lower smoke point. Please note that we are talking about virgin oils, here, not chemically refined oils.

At The Olive Oil Source, we believe that extra virgin olive oil smokes roughly between 400 and 365ºF (204 and 185ºC) depending on its free fatty acid content.

“When heated, olive oil is the most stable fat, which means it stands up well to high frying temperatures. Its high smoke point (410ºF or 210ºC) is well above the ideal temperature for frying food (356ºF or 180ºC). The digestibility of olive oil is not affected when it is heated, even when it is re-used several times for frying” IOOC.

As a reference point, the table from the IOOC shows standard cooking temperatures:

Type of Food Cooking Temperature
High water content: vegetables, potatoes, fruit… Medium (266-293ºF or 130-145ºC)
Coated in batter, flour or breadcrumbs, forming a forming a crust Hot (311-338ºF or 155-170ºC)
Small, quickly fried: small fish, croquettes Very Hot (347-374ºF or 175–190ºC)

How does Olive Oil Compare with Other Cooking Oils?

The table below shows the smoke point of a few other cooking oils. Keep in mind that the smoke point for a vegetable oil will vary according to the variety and growing conditions, and how the oil was produced. Various manufacturers and sources cite different numbers.

Type of Oil Smoke Point Temperature
Grape Seed 485ºF or 252ºC
Avocado 480ºF or 249ºC
Sesame 410ºF or 210ºC
Canola 400ºF or 204ºC
Macademia 385ºF or 196ºC

Click on images to enlarge.

A high smoke point is desirable for a cooking oil. When frying, best results occur when the oil is very hot. The food is placed into the hot oil and the natural sugars caramelize and proteins denature into a thin shell which protects the food from soaking up the oil. The outside is crisp and the interior is just cooked.

When heated oil smokes, it is not just a nuisance. Besides coating your home interior with a varnish like substance, where there’s smoke there’s fire. An oil at its smoke point is closer to its flash point – the point where it will burst into flame.

So a high smoke point is one yardstick for a “good oil” If you go to the internet or the market to look for smoke points you will see something interesting. Every oil claims to have the highest smoke point.

The smoke point for a vegetable oil will vary according to the variety and growing conditions, and how the oil was produced.

The smoke you see may be impurities in the oil which are burning. Unfiltered olive oil has small bits of olive in it. When the oil is heated these bits will burn and smoke before the oil itself. A well-filtered or clarified oil will have a higher smoke point generally.

Complete Guide to the Properties of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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