Oils For Frying And Sautéing: How To Keep Your Kitchen Smoke-Free

Mar 2, 2016

The Food Guys dish up numbers on the smoke points of different cooking fats, guided by a 2010 article by Shilo Urban, "How To Cook With Oils: The Manifesto."

When should you worry about the smoke point of your favorite cooking oil? Mostly when you're frying, says Greg Patent. Once oil is hot enough to start smoking, its flavor and nutritional value break down, and carcinogens begin to form.

"Pick a few favorite oils and, especially if you like to fry, make sure you're not going to exceed their smoke points," suggests Greg. If you're dubious about claims of a high smoke point for an oil, test it yourself by heating some oil slowly and measuring it using a digital thermometer.

But you're probably not cooking at as high a temperature as you think. In baking, for example, the oven might reach a temperature of 400 degrees F, but the muffins, bread or pie inside it won't exceed 200 degrees. Since butter's smoke point is 300 degrees F,  you're safe to bake with it, even in a hot oven.

Some guidelines: unrefined oils have a lower smoke point than refined ones. You can sauté with butter if you mix it with oils like coconut, safflower, mustard, soybean, grapeseed, peanut, corn or sunflower, whose smoke points are higher. Extra virgin olive oil works well for low to medium-heat sautéing. Unlike ordinary butter, ghee - Indian clarified butter - is good for frying. So is corn oil, with a smoke point of 457 degrees F. On the other end of the smoke-point spectrum, certain oils like walnut oil should only be used for baking, or in salads.


(Broadcast: "The Food Guys," 1/5/14, 2/28/16 and 3/3/16. Listen weekly on the radio at 11:50 a.m. Sundays and again at 4:54 p.m. Thursdays, or via podcast.)