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

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.

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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.

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  1. Geovana says

    Hi Jessica 🙂
    I would like to use this information in a scientific paper, do you recommend any book or article with similar information and tables on the smoke point?

    Thank you so much, I love your work and I admire you!

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