One of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to cooking is related to the smoke point, but what exactly is a smoke point? This term refers to the temperature at which a given fat or oil starts to emit a continuous and visible smoke from the pan. If you’ve ever left butter or oil in a pan to heat for a period of time before adding your other ingredients then you’ve likely witnessed this occurance in your own kitchen.
While some might argue that the only issue with the smoke point, also called the burn point, is that it might impart a burnt or unsavory flavor to your dishes. However, as any fat or oil begins to heat, degradation starts to occur. If you heat past the smoke point you can start to lose the important nutrients that exist as part of the fat. One of the benefits of cooking with extra virgin olive oil is that it’s an oil that has a fairly high smoke point, and in addition it retains more of its nutrients than other oils as it reaches these higher temperatures.
For those of you looking for a more concrete answer than “when it starts to smoke in your pan” there are a number of online charts that list the standard smoke points for fats often used in cooking. Corn oil for example smokes at 450 degrees, and canola oil at 400 degrees. Extra virgin olive oil smokes between a range of 325 and 410 degrees farenheit.
At D’Olivo we offer recommendations on cooking with our oils that are specific to those that we source from Veronica Foods. For example, our mild ultra premium olive oil we recommend it be used as a finishing oil only and that you not cook with it. However, both our medium and robust oils can be cooked with, but we recommend you use the robust oil for the dishes you plan to cook at the hottest temperatures.
The answer here is both a yes and a no. Of course, the smoke point is important as you prepare dishes. First because you want them to be enjoyed by your guests without that burnt smell or lingering burned taste.
In addition, you’ll want to maintain all of the benefits of the oil that you’ve chosen to cook with. This is especially important with olive oil as the health benefits of olive oil are well studied and documented which we explored in this blog article.
However, many might be surprised to discover that when it comes to extra virgin olive oil you don’t need to worry as much about smoke point simply because the temperature threshold is higher (325 degrees to 410 degrees). The average temperature for various cooking methods often doesn’t exceed this temperature.
For example, pan frying or sautéing on a stove top typically reaches a temperature of 248 degrees. Deep frying happens between 320 and 356 degrees farenheit, and baking in an oven happens at an average of 356 degrees.
While there are always exceptions to these temperatures they provide a good example of why smoke point, especially when using olive oil, often might not impact your food.
We explore the best types of oils to cook with here and would encourage you to read that as you start preparing your next dinner party menu.