The oil that you choose to cook with can make or break your dish, and it’s vital to know the best oils to cook with and their smoking points. You want to make sure that you choose a delicious oil that’s not going to burn and ruin your beautiful creation when it gets too hot during the cooking process, as well as one that’s also not going to overpower the flavors in your dish.
Oil is derived from extracting and pressing processes, and it can be made from anything from seeds, nuts, and olives to avocados and coconut. Therefore, each one possesses a different chemical composition, resulting in some that are perfect for high temperature cooking, such as searing a steak, and others that are better suited for salad dressings and stir fry.
Oil Smoking Points and Why They Matter:
When it comes to picking out the perfect cooking oil, you want to consider its smoking point, which is merely the temperature that it starts smoking at and that can range from as low as 325°F to as high as 520°F.
When oil starts smoking, it’s a sign that it is breaking down. Keep in mind that when oil breaks down, it can release chemicals that can give what you're cooking an undesirable burnt or bitter flavor, as well as potentially harmful free radicals. That’s why it’s so important to choose a high quality oil with a higher smoking point when it comes to higher temperature cooking.
Here’s a nifty list to keep in your back pocket of some top oils to cook with and their flavors and smoking points, so that you can be a pro when it comes to choosing the best ones for your different culinary creations.
Derived from the green fleshy part of the avocado that’s around the pit, avocado oil is the belle of the ball of cooking oils right now. Cold-pressed avocado oil is solvent free and maintains its avocado flavor and is packed with potassium and healthy fats. Avocado oil is extremely popular for its benefits and is also used for cosmetic purposes as well.
Smoking Point - 520ºF:
This oil has one of the highest smoking points of the cooking oils, so it’s perfect for your next high-temperature cooking adventure and also could take your next salad to a whole new level.
Because this oil is extracted from peanuts, it possesses a bold and nutty flavor and leans toward the fattier of the oils, but it is also beneficial because it is full of vitamin E.
Smoking Point - 450ºF:
Peanut oil is a favorite of many chefs, especially when it comes to creating Asian dishes, and is great for cooking not just because of its flavor but also because of its high smoking point.
From the fruit of the African oil palm, don’t confuse this oil with kernel oil, which is extracted from the kernels of the palm fruits. Solid when at room temperature, it possesses a neutral taste that can sometimes also be said to be mildly nutty. An extremely versatile oil, it is used in everything from baking to cooking to cosmetic items.
Smoking Point - 450ºF:
It does have one of the highest smoking points, but the use of this oil is controversial to many, as many large areas of tropical forests in Africa are being cleared to make way for more oil palm plantations. Some countries have pulled this oil from store shelves altogether.
Extracted straight from the seeds of the wondrous sunflower itself, this neutral-flavored oil is extremely beneficial for your health and is full of antioxidants and vitamins.
Smoking Point - 440ºF:
This oil has a high smoking point, which makes it an excellent candidate for searing and sauteing, and it’s flavor won’t distract from the flavors in your dishes. This is another great oil for cooking steak.
Extracted from the seeds of the canola plant, it has a mild flavor, a high amount of Omega-3 fatty acids (the only oil with more is flaxseed oil), and is low in saturated fat when compared to other cooking oils.
Smoking Point - 425ºF:
This oil has a high smoking point. Not only is it great for cooking with, but it’s also tasty in many other non-cooked items, such as salads and dressings.
Tallow is animal fat that’s solid when it’s at room temperature and that can be stored for an extended period of time when it’s in an air-tight container. It has the same consistency as expeller pressed coconut oil when it’s at room temperature - solid, white, and waxy, but it has a magical effect on food when heated.
Smoking Point - 420ºF:
Tallow has a high smoking point, and it’s absolutely perfect to sear your next steak in. Not only is it perfect for searing a steak, but it’s delicious in all types of cooking. It’s mild flavor adds deliciousness to any dish and it will make anything from a stir fry to a pie crust taste better!
Wine isn’t the only beautiful product to come from grapes - grapeseed oil is another wonderful byproduct of winemaking and that’s extracted from grape seeds. Light in color and brimming with Omega-6, it also has a clean and light taste, which is what makes it so desirable for cooking.
Smoking Point - 420ºF:
This oil has a very high smoking point, and it’s awesome for cooking and searing meats (it would be wonderful to sear your next steak in), as well as in baking and dressings.
The oil derived from olives is by far one of the most popular ones because it is so versatile and adds amazing taste to so many things. Brimming with antioxidants and healthy fats, it’s used in everything from cooking to dressings to skin and health products because of its incredible benefits. The taste of olive oil varies and depends on its quality and where and how it was produced, much like different wines vary depending on where they are from and how they were made.
Smoking Point - 410ºF (can vary depending on the quality of the oil):
The quality of the olive oil determines its smoking point. For example, if the olive oil is a better quality such as extra virgin olive oil, then it has a high smoking point, but if it’s a lower quality mass produced one, the smoking point will be far lower and not great for cooking. “Virgin” is the word that you want to look for when picking out olive oil. That will let you know that it’s chemical and solvent free, and that it has a higher smoking point.
This oil is usually a mixture of lots of other oils, and that usually includes soybean, corn, safflower, and often even more.
Smoking Point - 400ºF :
While vegetable oil has a higher smoking point, she is one bland baby. The pros of using it are that it doesn’t mask or change the flavors of the food that you’re cooking, but the cons are that it’s not the healthiest oil for your meal. It’s lack of benefits for your health aside, it’s great for high temperature cooking.
Coconut Oil - Virgin:
Out of all of the different types of coconut oil, virgin coconut oil is the least refined. This type of coconut oil is usually made by either cold pressing, centrifuge extractions, or through heating coconut cream in order to extract the oil. It maintains its coconut flavor, which makes it the perfect candidate when it comes to adding some pizzazz to dishes!
Smoking Point - 350ºF:
This oil has a lower smoking point, so you don’t want to use it for high-temperature cooking. It’s excellent for flavoring all types of dishes though, including soup, rice, or whatever you feel like needs a coconutty kick.
Coconut Oil - Expeller Pressed:
Expeller pressed coconut oil, which is the type that’s a solid when at room temperature, is more refined and is created by pressing (usually dried) coconut meat. This is a less tasty and less healthy coconut oil option as the process in which it’s made removes its coconut flavor, and sometimes it’s hydrogenated - converting it into a trans fat. With this type of coconut oil be sure to check that solvents, chemicals or bleach weren’t used in it’s extraction.
Smoking Point - 400ºF:
This type of coconut oil does have a high smoking point, so it is great for high temperature cooking. It’s also great for seasoning cast iron to sautéing to deep frying some truly delicious dishes.
Coconut Oil - Liquid:
Liquid coconut oil is also known as MCT oil. The health benefits of this oil are countless and used by many because the fatty acids in this oil don’t require as many steps for the body to convert it into fuel.
Smoking Point - varies:
Liquid coconut oil can be used in almost all of the same types of cooking as expeller pressed coconut oil, but check each individual brand’s rating for its use in high heat dishes and what the safe smoking point is for it as it varies.
Extracted from the dried seeds of a flax plant, this oil has a crispness and a mild nutty flavor. It is brimming with Omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients, which is why many take it in pill form for the health benefits.
Smoking Point - 225ºF:
This oil has a lower smoking point than most other oils, so don’t sear your next steak in it. However, it’s fantastic for so many other things such as sauces and salad dressings.
Toasted Sesame Oil:
Toasted sesame oil is different from regular sesame oil because toasted sesame oil is made by pressing sesame seeds that have been toasted prior to extraction versus regular sesame oil that is made from untreated seeds. Because of the toasting beforehand, toasted sesame oil possesses a strong sesame flavor and is much more delicious than regular sesame oil. It’s also loaded with vitamin E and other nutrients.
Smoking Point - a finishing oil only.
This oil has a lower smoking point, so it’s best to use it as a finishing oil. It would be the perfect touch to your next stir fry or salad dressing (you don’t need much to fill a dish with some of its bold yet wonderful flavor). Be careful as it’s a very delicate oil and heating it even a little too much can give it a burnt and bitter flavor.
Now that you have a solid understanding of which oils are better to cook with than others and why, keep in mind that this information is especially vital when it comes to cooking steak. You want an oil that’s not going to burn your beautiful steak creation or tamper with it’s amazing flavor and crispy outer crust.
Here’s a few recipes to try your pro oil cooking skills out on:
Photo Credit: Pixabay