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    • Which oils are best for cooking?

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    •  5/19/2010 9:48:44 PM
    • Have you ever heard the term "SMOKE POINT" in reference to oils? 



      This basically means the point at which the fat starts to break down when exposed to heat.  Heat changes the characteristics of oils and fats (including nuts and seeds) and can quickly change a "good fat" into a toxic one (this is why raw nuts are healthy and roasted nuts generally are not).  The release of free radicals from over-heating the oil has been directly linked to cancer.  So in cooking it becomes important to familiarize yourself with the smoke point of different oils.  Extra-virgin olive oil might be perfect on your salad but has a relatively low smoke point.  Sunflower, safflower and canola oils are a much better choice if you are going to be frying or using a high temperature.

      This is a chart on




      Type of oil or fat Saturated Monounsaturated Polyunsaturated Smoke point Uses
      Butter 66% 30% 4% 150 °C (302 °F) Cooking, baking, condiment, sauces, flavoring
      Ghee, clarified butter 65% 32% 3% 190–250 °C (374–482 °F) Deep frying, cooking, sautéeing, condiment, flavoring
      Canola oil 6% 62% 32% 242 °C (468 °F) Frying, baking, salad dressings
      Coconut oil 92% 6% 2% 177 °C (351 °F) Commercial baked goods, candy and sweets, whipped toppings, nondairy coffee creamers, shortening
      Rice bran oil 20% 47% 33% 254 °C (489 °F) Cooking, frying, deep frying, salads, dressings. Very clean flavoured & palatable.
      Corn oil 13% 25% 62% 236 °C (457 °F) Frying, baking, salad dressings, margarine, shortening
      Cottonseed oil 24% 26% 50% 216 °C (421 °F) Margarine, shortening, salad dressings, commercially fried products
      Grape seed oil 12% 17% 71% 204 °C (399 °F) Cooking, salad dressings, margarine
      Lard 41% 47% 2% 138–201 °C (280–394 °F)[29] Baking, frying
      Margarine, hard 80% 14% 6% 150 °C (302 °F)[30] Cooking, baking, condiment
      Margarine, soft 20% 47% 33% 150–160 °C (302–320 °F) Cooking, baking, condiment
      Diacylglycerol (DAG) oil 3.5% 37.95% 59% 215 °C (419 °F) Frying, baking, salad oil
      Olive oil (extra virgin) 14% 73% 11% 190 °C (374 °F) Cooking, salad oils, margarine
      Olive oil (virgin) 14% 73% 11% 215 °C (419 °F) Cooking, salad oils, margarine
      Olive oil (refined) 14% 73% 11% 225 °C (437 °F) Sautee, stir frying, cooking, salad oils, margarine
      Olive oil (extra light) 14% 73% 11% 242 °C (468 °F) Sautee, stir frying, frying, cooking, salad oils, margarine
      Palm oil 52% 38% 10% 230 °C (446 °F) Cooking, flavoring, vegetable oil, shortening
      Peanut oil 18% 49% 33% 231 °C (448 °F) Frying, cooking, salad oils, margarine
      Safflower oil 10% 13% 77% 265 °C (509 °F) Cooking, salad dressings, margarine
      Sesame oil (Unrefined) 14% 43% 43% 177 °C (351 °F) Cooking
      Sesame oil (semi-refined) 14% 43% 43% 232 °C (450 °F) Cooking, deep frying
      Soybean oil 15% 24% 61% 241 °C (466 °F) Cooking, salad dressings, vegetable oil, margarine, shortening
      Sunflower oil (linoleic) 11% 20% 69% 246 °C (475 °F) Cooking, salad dressings, margarine, shortening
      Sunflower oil (high oleic)[31] 9% 82% 9%    


      One other important thing to note is whether the oil is refined or unrefined.  Refined oils have gone through numerous processes that remove different impurities (and arguably nutrients) that cause the oil to smoke.  This means that refined oils have a higher smoke point than their unrefined counterpart.


      Years ago I read that coconut oil was preferred for its high smoke point.  Although it is high in saturated fat , I opted for this oil instead of olive oil for my high temperature dishes.  As it turns out, the coconut oil I was using in fact has a very low smoke point.  I also learned that the Extra Light Olive Oil has a relatively high smoke point.  From now on I think I will use  it, or canola, in my cooking.

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