Smoke Points of Cooking Oils

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Knowing the smoke point temperatures of cooking oils and fats is important. 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 essential 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, selecting an oil with a high smoke point is best to provide a comfortable buffer during the cooking process. You’ll also want to consider the duration, as a quick saute can use butter with a lower smoke point, but only because the time in the pan is not as long as pan-frying something like breaded chicken.

What does smoke point mean?

The smoke point temperature is when oil breaks down into free fatty acids and visibly produces smoke. This temperature, measured with a thermometer, varies between different oils, and all oils will smoke with prolonged heating. 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 their suitability for 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 in contact with, say, chicken on the stovetop, the smoke point, and recommended use duration reduce. The oil starts reacting with the other ingredients’ water 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 its characteristic aroma and taste. In that case, you may want to consider high smoke point oil.

Selecting an oil

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

Another thing to consider is if you’re using refined versus unrefined oils. Refined oils remove 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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39 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. 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.

  6. Georgetta Busler says

    Thank you so much! This cooking fats information has saved more than one recipe from becoming a disaster.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      The smoke point of ghee is about 485ºF. This is a high smoke point fat, which would be great for pan-frying, sauteeing, and roasting. It’s made with milkfat, so it will be rich in flavor, without the milk solids that burn quickly.

      • Joel Blackwell says

        I’m testing a 3 Quart GreenPan Venice Pro Nonstick Ceramic Chef’s Pan with helper handle that uses Thermolon™ Minerals (ceramic). In my research for a perfect pan I find that many manufacturers specify no spray oils, ever, and high smoke point oils for best logevity of nonstick. For taste, I like “I can’t believe it’s not butter,” which has a palm kernal/ palm oil and soy oil mix. What do you think about “I can’t…” for cooking?
        FYI wikipedia says
        Palm kernel oil is an edible plant oil derived from the kernel of the oil palm Elaeis guineensis. It should not be confused with the other two edible oils derived from palm fruits: palm oil, extracted from the pulp of the oil palm fruit, and coconut oil, extracted from the kernel of the coconut.

        • Jessica Gavin says

          Hi Joel- I think you can use it for sauteeing or roasting vegetables, or cooking eggs. I’m not sure of the smoke point of that blend, soy has a high smoke point but palm is lower. I wouldn’t avoid deep frying or doing any high-temperature searing, unless you just adding some after searing meat to baste at the end of cooking for flavor.

  7. 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!

  8. DAPHNE HINES says

    Hi Jessica, I’m so thrilled to have come across your website. I am a cook and a cast iron cookware collector. This has truly helped me understand the science of the oils and fats. Thank you!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Nice to meet you, Daphne! I love that you are a chef and collect cast iron. Must be an unbelievable collection! So happy that I could help you in your culinary adventures.

  9. Pat says

    I love apple fritters, and hVe tried 6 different recipes. I found one that’s easy but I am not happy with frying with oil it burns on outside while raw on inside, I backed them still not good consistency . Should I try veg. Shortening

  10. Zhan Ye says

    Hi, Ms. Jessica Gavin, I am Zhan Ye from China, it is inspiring to read you professional knowledge sharing here. I just want to know where are the data about the smoking point from? From the standard in US or from european union standard? Thank you very much!

  11. NJtoTX says

    Not sure why, when I cook with avocado oil, the cast iron skillet starts smoking after a batch or two. Maybe I should switch to safflower.

  12. Siddharth Singh says

    Hi jessica I liked yoiur webiste and your idea of spreading knowledge about food
    By the way I am a food Technologist (hybrid of culinary arts and biotechnology science)

    Glad to connect
    Siddharth Singh
    India

  13. David Randall says

    Thank you Jessica, for approaching cooking in a way equally scientific and culinary. (My late mom, who grew up in Paris, always said that cooking is chemistry.. you must understand how proteins, fats, starches, emusions, heat, salt, work together). That said, I’m curious that in your pot roast recipe (perfect), you recommend “olive oil” for browning. One wants a high temp for a quick sear of course. These days most serous cooks keep extra virgin types around, but forget that they are not suited to high heat. A refined, light OO has a high-ish smoke point, but as your research shows, EVOO does not. As I don’t want to cook (toughen) the meat during the sear,

    I would avoid EVOO there. I keep peanut oil on hand, Canola if necessary (toxins, eh) and avocado on hand. Refined safflower seems usable. Many have peanut allergies (and should choose their Chinese restaurants carefully), but there are alternatives (even coconut, which shouldn’t flavor the food in that use). Also, the old technique of flooring the meat, with S/P, is not just for flavor or crustiness, but reduces spatter when the meat meets the hot pan.

    Keep up the good work!

    David

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