The smoke point (also known as flash point) of an oil is the temperature at which an oil begins to smoke and break down when exposed to heat. Oil types and processing methods are both determining factors in an oil’s smoke point. Refined/neutral oils such as refined avocado oil tend to have vastly higher smoke points than extra virgin or virgin oils because they are stripped of the free fatty acids that can begin to “smoke” with heat exposure. Once an oil’s smoke point is surpassed in the cooking process, nutrients are broken down and free radicals are created which are harmful for consumption.
Choosing the right oil for your kitchen
There are many oils available to purchase for cooking and educating yourself on every oil’s smoke point can be overwhelming. As a general rule of thumb, try to stick with refined or neutral oils for high heat cooking such as deep frying, baking, grilling, searing, or roasting. Refined oils tend to have vastly higher smoke points than extra virgin or virgin oils because many of the free fatty acids in the oil are removed. Our personal favorite oil for high heat cooking is refined avocado oil because it’s smoke point is the highest of any cooking oil and it has a completely neutral flavor and color.
As for extra virgin and virgin oils, cooking at lower temperatures for light sauteing or drizzling oil over a finished dish is totally safe. Not to mention, you’re getting a hearty dose of nutrients that would otherwise be mostly filtered out in refined oils. Factoring in your own wants and needs for cooking can help you narrow down your decision in choosing the right oil for your kitchen.