Cooking Safely with Oil at High Temperatures

Not every oil can take the heat! Choose your cooking oils wisely with this handy guide

Credit: iStock / masaltof

Don’t let the health benefits of your cooking oil go up in smoke!

Choose cooking oils with a high smoke point to avoid carcinogens

Unsaturated fats like canola, olive and nut oils offer great health benefits, including helping with cholesterol control, decreasing cell inflammation and supporting brain function.

But, these positive effects literally go up in smoke when these oils are heated to very high temperatures. In fact, when oil reaches its maximum heat threshold (smoke point), it breaks down, its flavour changes and carcinogens can form.

High-temperature Cooking Tips

When using high-temperature cooking methods, choose oils with a high smoke point (see table). Oils with low smoke points, such as extra-virgin olive oil, are best suited for salad dressings and lower-temperature cooking.

Other factors can decrease the smoke point of an oil too, including the combination of vegetable oils used in the product, the presence of batter or salt, the length of time the oil is heated, the number of times the oil is reheated, and whether the oil is correctly stored. It’s not hard to understand why salty, battered and deep-fried foods are not healthy.

Store cooking oils in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator (although the oil will appear cloudy until returned to room temperature).

Note: Oil should not be used if the colour has darkened, it has become thicker, there is sediment at the bottom, or it smells rancid or off.

Oil Smoke Points

 Oil  Approximate Smoke Point
 Safflower  510F / 265C
 Sunflower  475F / 246C
 Soybean  465F / 240C
 Canola  460F / 238C
 Corn  457F / 236C
 Peanut  448F / 231C
 Sesame  419F / 215C
 Olive  374F / 190C
 Lards  361 to 401F / 183 to 205C
 Butter  350F / 177C

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.