What is a Cooking Oil Smoke Point?
October 03, 2023
If you’ve ever had the experience of drizzling oil or placing a pat of butter into a warm pan, only to turn around a few minutes later to a billowing cloud of smoke that threatens to set off your smoke alarm, you’ve been impacted by a smoke point. So, what is it? Simply put, the smoke point of an oil or fat is the temperature at which it begins to smoke. When an oil reaches its smoke point, the fats in the oil begin to break down and the oil releases a chemical called acrolein. Any food you’re cooking will start to develop a bitter, burnt taste.
The smoke point is different from the boiling point—the temperature at which a liquid begins to boil. The smoke point of an oil is lower than the boiling point, so you will see that lovely drizzle of hot oil begin to smoke before you see the bubbles that form when it boils. There are several factors that go into determining an oil’s smoke point, including the type of oil and the level of refinement. The less refined the oil is, the lower the smoke point typically is. If the oil is labeled “extra virgin,” it has a lower smoke point than a more refined version of the same oil. More refined oils will also develop a more neutral flavor, while less refined oils have a stronger and more noticeable taste, which is why extra virgin oils are often used to impart flavor by drizzling over food after it is cooked.
Why is the Smoke Point Important?
Before choosing an oil to cook with, you’ll want to know the approximate smoke point of the oil. This tells you not only how to avoid setting off your smoke alarms with an accidental cloud of smoke, but also at what temperature you can cook your food before the fats in the oil start to break down. If your oil reaches the smoke point during cooking, it may also give your food a burnt taste that you want to avoid. Here’s a quick look at the approximate smoke points of some commonly used cooking oils:
|Extra Virgin Olive Oil||350°-410°F|
|Olive Oil (refined)||390°-470°F|
What Smoke Point Do You Need?
To determine what smoke point to aim for, you’ll need to look at the cooking method you plan to use. For example, if you’re deep-frying some potatoes, deep frying is typically done at 350-375°F, so you would want to use a cooking oil with a smoke point above 375° like avocado oil or refined olive oil.
The higher an oil’s smoke point is, the more creative you can get in the kitchen! Using a high-heat oil like avocado oil makes sautéing, frying, air-frying, roasting, and baking a snap. In contrast, if you were to use an oil with a lower smoke point, like vegetable oil or unrefined coconut oil (around 350°F), get ready to turn on the overhead fan or plug your ears for the dreaded high-pitched “beeeeep” of your smoke alarm when you’re whipping up a stir fry.
Avocado Oil Smoke Point: A High-Heat Champion
Besides being a source of good fats from plant-based oils, avocado oil has a high smoke point in comparison to many other cooking oils. The highest-heat oil in our lineup, Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil has a smoke point of 500°F or more. To put that into perspective, extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point between 350°F and 410°F depending on factors such as the oil’s origin and how the oil is processed. Olive oil that’s less refined has a slightly higher smoke point, up to 470°F, but still doesn’t reach the heat level that avocado oil can take.
With a smoke point of more than 500°F, refined avocado oil can tackle nearly any cooking task, from sautéing (320-350°F) to deep-frying (350-375°F), air frying (350-400°F) and even some stir-fries (450°F+). If you’re thinking that you don’t want your onion rings or teriyaki stir-fry to taste like avocado toast, don’t worry! Avocado oil has a neutral flavor, making it the perfect cooking oil for everything from french fries and steaks to vegetables, casseroles, and collagen-infused cookies.