What Is Oil Smoke Point And How Does It Affect Cooking?

You’ve seen it before – the smoke rising from your frying pan as you desperately turn on the overhead fan to prevent the fire alarm from buzzing away again. When this happens you have reached the oil smoke point and every different type of oil has its own temperature where the smoke will start to form and have you scrambling. Does it affect your cooking? Yes, it certainly does!

Examining the different smoke point of oils will give you a good idea of what type of oils you should be using for different types of frying. There are different tables that you can look at that will display the exact temperature when an oil will start to smoke, but you need to keep in mind that this is only for new oil that is being poured directly from the bottle and not for any reused oil that you may be keeping for deep frying.

Examining various smoke points

There can be quite a difference between the smoke points for different oils. Safflower oil, for instance, has a smoke point of 265°C while olive oil will reach its point at 190°C. This is one of the reasons why safflower, sunflower, soybean and canola oil are commonly used for deep frying. They all have a much higher smoke point than peanut, sesame or olive oil.

If you’re planning on reusing the oil for deep frying you should also know that every time you use it the smoke point decreases. As small bits of breading or batter are released into the oil this point goes down. While it’s okay to reuse oil, you’ll want to measure its temperature with a thermometer to make sure that the oil is getting hot enough to use for deep frying.

How it affects your cooking

When you’re deep frying you’ll want to get the oil at 375°F (190°C) to effectively deep fry the foods. If you’re using oil that has been previously used for deep frying it may not able to reach this heat if the smoke point has been deteriorated drastically. This means that the food you are frying won’t cook as it’s supposed to and will end up being extremely greasy.

The other concern

Not only will you want to avoid reaching the oil smoke point for cooking but you’ll also want to avoid it due to the fire hazards associated with such a high heat. The smoke point is dangerously close to the flash point where small wisps of flames start to dance up from the oil. Above this flashpoint is the fire point that will set all of the oil ablaze.