Smoke Points of Cooking Oils

It’s important to know the smoke point temperatures of cooking oils and fats. This informational guide lists when common oils begin to break down and degrade. Making the right selection will help optimize nutrition, taste, and safety in the kitchen.

Hand holding a thermometer to take the temperature of cooking oil in a pot

Cooking oils are an essential ingredient for deep frying and preventing food from sticking to pans. However, they all have limitations based on their composition.

Do you know how to choose oil for different cooking applications and why? Using the smoke point is one of the most objective ways to make a selection, keeping function, health, and safety in mind.

For example, when cooking at high temperatures like stir-frying or deep frying, it’s best to select an oil with a high smoke point to provide a comfortable buffer during the cooking process. You’ll also want to take into consideration the duration, as a quick saute can use butter which has a lower smoke point, but only because the time in the pan is not as long as pan-frying something like breaded chicken.

What is a Smoke Point

The temperature at which oil begins to break down into free fatty acids and visibly produce smoke. This temperature, measured with a thermometer, varies between different oils, and with prolonged heating, all oils will smoke. Maintaining this temperature can become unsafe and possibly start a fire if you reach the flashpoint of the oil.

Smoke Point Temperatures

FAT / OIL SMOKE POINT APPLICATION
Butter 300-350°F (149-175°C) Saute, quick pan-fry, baking, roasting
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil 325-410°F (163-210°C) Saute, finishing oil, dressings, marinades, baking
Coconut Oil 350-385°F (175-196°C) Saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting
Sesame Oil 350-410°F (175-210°C) Saute, small amount for stir-frying
Vegetable Shortening 360-410°F (180-210°C) Baking, saute
Lard 370°F (188°C) Saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting, deep-frying
Grapeseed Oil 390°F (195°C) Saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting, dressings
Canola Oil 400-450°F (204-230°C) Searing, saute, pan-fry, stir-fry, baking, roasting, grilling, deep-frying
Vegetable Oil 400-450°F (204-230°C) Searing, saute, pan-fry, stir-fry, baking, roasting, grilling, deep-frying
Margarine 410-430°F (210-221°C) Saute, stir-fry, roasting
Corn Oil 410-450°F (210-230°C) Searing, saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting, grilling, deep-frying
Light/Refined Olive Oil 425-465°F (218-241°C) Saute, pan-fry, grilling, baking, roasting
Sunflower Oil 440°F (230°C) Searing, saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting, grilling, deep-frying
Peanut Oil 440-450°F (227-230°C) Searing, saute, pan-fry, stir-fry, baking, roasting, grilling, deep-frying
Clarified Butter 450°F (230°C) Saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting
Soybean Oil 450-495°F (230-257°C) Searing, saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting, grilling, deep-frying
Safflower 510°F (265°C) Searing, saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting, grilling, deep-frying
Avocado Oil, Refined 520-570°F (271-299°C) Saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting, grilling, dressings

 

How composition affects smoke point

The structure of oils, especially free fatty acids, determines it’s suitability for use in high-temperature frying. By definition, fats are solid at room temperature while oils remain liquid. Fats are made up of triglycerides, which are three fatty acids bonded to a glycerol molecule.

Most meat-based fats such as butter are high in saturated fats, while plant-based oils are high in unsaturated fats. The health benefits are better when cooking with plant-based oils. However, the taste of animal fats is more flavorful.

Smoke points change during cooking

When the oil is heated and put in contact with food the smoke point and recommended use duration reduces. The oil starts to react with the water from the other ingredients to form more free fatty acids.

Unsaturated fatty acids also oxidize when heated. Fresher oil will have a higher smoke point and then lowers over time with continuous heating. The rate at how quickly oil breaks down into free fatty acids can be indicated by its smoke point.

Know the limit

Cooking oil at the smoke point can create undesirable flavors from the breakdown and release of a chemical called acrolein which gives burnt food their characteristic aroma and taste.

Selecting an oil

Typically vegetable-derived oils have a higher smoke point than animal-based fats. The exception is olive oil which is closer in smoke point to butter depending on the level of refinement and brand.

Another thing to consider is how much the oil is refined. This process removes impurities that contribute to smoking, which increases the smoke point.

Filed under:

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

Jessica's Secrets: Cooking Made Easy!
Get my essential cooking techniques that I learned in culinary school.
Jessica Gavin standing in the kitchen

You May Also Like

Reader Interactions

15 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Dennis Murphy says

    Excellent article and reference for selecting cooking oils for certain applications.
    What oil do you recommend for creating non-stick surface on cast iron pans?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Dennis- I would use corn, vegetable or canola oil for seasoning the pan over time. As the pan gets repeatedly rubbed and heated with the oil, the oil will become polymerized, creating that nonstick coat. Good luck!

  2. Pat Conlon says

    That’s a lot of great information, thank you so much! I think I need to experiment; I may need to change from an olive oil spritz to corn or peanut oil spritz when using my air fryer; I was wondering why the smoke alarms kept going off! LOL

  3. SK says

    Hi Jessica,
    This is a helpful start, although I wonder if you can give additional guidance about how to select an oil. Primarily, how can we tell how high of a smoke point we need to plan for? Should we never go above the smoke point (I’m thinking about browned butter and if there are any similar examples). What about flavor profiles?
    Thank you.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi SK- I absolutely LOVE your suggestions. I plan to make a post exactly on those topics because I know it will be very helpful for home cooks when choosing the right oil for cooking. Thanks!

  4. andrea says

    I’m with SK’s suggestions and look forward to learning which oil is best suited for flavor according to foods and cooking methods.. fresh escarole with dinner is tossed almost daily with Filippo Berio olive oil & white balsamic.. ‘ use berio for cooking almost everything, including popcorn if canola, veg or corn oil is out. been contemplating avocado & grapeseed oil several months but not sure if they add a peculiar flavor or flavor incongruent to particular foodstuff & wait eagerly for your or someone’s researched results

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I’m loving how you are looking for more! I think it’s a great thing to learn, how to chose an oil based on flavor and cooking methods. I will add it to my to-do list 🙂 I will definitely look into avocado oil, I know it has a high smoke point so great for lots of different techniques. I LOVE using grapeseed oil. I started using it in culinary school and I like that it has a high smoke point and very neutral flavor.

  5. Jonathan Davis says

    What advice would you give regarding the re-use of oil for deep fat frying? Is there one in particular that can withstand being used for frying and then stored in a jar afterwards? If so, how long can an oil be used in this manner?

    MedicalNewsToday reported that there was a study that determined that extra virgin olive oil was best for deep fat frying because it remains stable for the longest time (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325266.php). What is your opinion? Should we begin using EVOO for deep fat frying based on its stability or are there other considerations that you think are more important when choosing an oil for deep fat frying?

  6. arj says

    This is very clear and informative. Thank you. Recently I’ve begun using ceramic pans and learned that olive oil is not a good option because it can leave a film on the pan that’s hard to remove. It was my go-to oil of choice (and only a very small amount of oil is needed on a ceramic pan), so now I’m not sure what to use. I’ve been using ghee, but it’s kind of messy and affects the flavor. Do you ever cook with ceramic pans, and if so, what is your oil of choice? Thank you.

Leave A Reply