Cooking with Vegetable Oils

by | Feb 26, 2018


Variety of 10 different edible oils

Plant-based oils such as olive oil, canola oil and sesame oil can make food taste great and are often required for recipes and cooking. The consumption of vegetable oils in the U.S. has exploded over the last 40+ years – by nearly 90%. Chart to this effect:


From Vox based on U.S. Dept of Agriculture Report.

Whether it is healthy to eat such oils and which types are the healthiest are beyond the scope of this IFOD. Instead, today’s focus is on the so-called “smoke point” of various vegetable oils.

Every cooking fat, whether butter, animal fat or vegetable oils have a temperature at which the fat will break down and start to smoke. This is called the “smoke point.” According to the Cleveland Clinic, heating an oil past its smoke point can produce toxic fumes and free radicals, both of which aren’t healthy (possibly carcinogenic). Additionally, at the smoke point a substance called acrolein is released that can create an acrid flavor and aroma.  Yuck.

A rule of thumb  is that the more refined (processed) an oil is the higher the smoke point.

Unrefined oils tend to taste more like the fruit or seed from which they were produced giving them a more flavorful, distinctive taste. They are also healthier due to their lack of processing. However, given their low smoke points, unrefined oils are not a good choice for any sort of cooking or baking. They are best used in sauces and dressings.

Refined oils have a higher smoke point but are not as healthy (some claim unhealthy) and have a blander taste. So, there is often a trade-off between taste, healthiness and smoke points.  Here’s a handy chart of the smoke points of various oils:


From Anova, maker of a Sous Vide precision cooker


1 Comment

  1. I’m pretty sure that at the “smoke point”, oils become transfat, making them even more dangerous.

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