Cooking With Oils

Do you know what a smoke point is? Or what’s the difference between a virgin and a refined oil? What about oils used in the oven, do they react the same way? You will find the answers to all these questions in this short nutrition article as well as an useful table to help you decide which oil to use based on different cooking techniques.

Smoke Point

All fats have a smoke point. As the name says it, it is the point at which they will begin to produce smoke. The compounds of the oil (fats, proteins, sugars, and other organic material) start to interact with oxygen and burn.

Virgin Vs. Refined

Virgin or raw oils contain a variety of compounds that contribute to their flavor and aroma. However, they also tend to burn quickly. During their refinement, these compounds are lost which raises the smoke point of the oil, but also decreases its flavor.

In the Oven

In the oven, the oil is not able to absorb most of the heat. Other things such as the pan, the food, the moisture of the meat, the vegetables or the sauce are. It is unlikely that the temperature of the oil will equalize that of the oven itself. For this reason, fats with a lower smoke point such as olive oil can be used.

Why Is It Bad to Go Above the Smoke Point?

On a practical level, heating oil past its smoke point will make your food taste and smell bad. Your smoke detector could go off and as temperatures creep higher, the oil may reach its fire point. Although very unlikely because the oil would have to reach temperatures around 700°F, it could spontaneously catch fire. Cooking oils to high temperatures can release acrolein. Acrolein is a by-product that can be released in the smoke and a potential carcinogen. Most people are exposed to low levels of acrolein daily. These concentrations are unlikely to produce health effects, but you are always better off replacing your cooking oil.

When the Heat Is On, Which Oil Should You Use?

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Krystal, B. (2020, March 9). What you should know about oil smoke points – and why they are not as scary as you might think. The Washington Post.

PCC Community Markets. (n.d.). Choosing the Right Cooking Oil. PCC Community Markets.

Rizzo, N. (2019, July 24). The best oils to use for cooking, according to nutritionists. NBC News.

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