The Best Vegetable Oil Swap For Deep-Frying

Even in an age of ubiquitous air fryers, nothing quite beats the crisp, golden results you get from deep-fried food. For effective and safe deep-frying at home, the right oil is essential. Using the wrong one can taint the taste of your food, and produce a lot of smoke. Not to mention, it's an expensive mistake, depending on your choice of oil.

The best oils for frying have a high smoke point, which means they can reach higher temperatures before they start to smoke or burn. They also have a neutral flavor, which doesn't overpower or alter the taste of your food. Vegetable oil is always a good bet, with a smoke point of around 400 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit – higher than the average temperature for deep-frying, which is around 350 to 375 degrees. It's what makes it the best oil for making french fries.

If you're looking to fry with an alternative type of oil, you need something with similar properties. Examples such as safflower oil, soybean oil, canola oil, peanut oil, or rice bran oil could all make potentially good swaps for standard vegetable oil, which is usually a blend from different sources, and explains why its smoke point can vary. The best oil choice will depend on a smoke point and flavor that best suits what you're cooking. As a general suggestion, refined avocado oil might be the best as its smoke point is 520 degrees Fahrenheit, has a neutral taste — but is pricey.

Use an oil with a high smoke point for deep-frying

It goes without saying that oil for deep-frying should have a smoke point higher than the temperature you're frying at, and at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit higher is best. This allows for fluctuations in temperature when you add the food, and also because the smoke point of an oil can drop the longer it heats.

So if you're deep-frying at the higher end of the scale, at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, you'll need an oil with a smoke point of at least 425 degrees. To fry at these sorts of high temperatures, you're looking at refined avocado oil, sunflower oil (440 degrees Fahrenheit smoke point), corn, peanut, or soybean oil (all with a smoke point of 450 degrees), or rice bran oil (490 degrees). Or try safflower oil, which has an incredibly high smoke point of 510 degrees Fahrenheit, and is considered the best oil for frying fish without changing the flavor.

If you're frying at the lower end of the range, at 350 degrees, then you could try canola oil, which has a smoke point of 400 degrees. Another benefit is price, as canola is relatively inexpensive. This matters when deep-frying where you need a large amount; while refined avocado oil has an even higher smoke point, for example, it's not a cheap option.

Choose a refined oil with a neutral flavor

Extra virgin olive oil has a delicious flavor, but it's not the best for deep-frying thanks to its low smoke point of just 325 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. However, refined or light olive oil (which is not actually more nutritious) has a much higher smoke point of 465 degrees. That's because the process of refining oils gets rid of impurities that make the oil smoke. Lighter-colored, refined oils tend to be better for deep-frying for this reason — plus, they don't impart unwanted flavors.

It's worth noting that while butter has a low smoke point of just 350 degrees Fahrenheit, clarified butter can be heated to a much higher 450 degrees before it starts smoking. But unlike vegetable oil, it's not neutral in flavor. The same goes for beef tallow, a fat that helps create restaurant-quality steaks and sides. It has a high smoke point of 400 degrees, but it also has a distinctively beefy taste that may not suit some dishes.

If you're looking for a good swap for vegetable oil in terms of neutrality, it's best to go for refined avocado, peanut oil, canola oil, safflower oil, or corn oil. These more subtle-tasting oils mean the crisp golden foods you're deep-frying will turn out just how you want them, with no unwanted flavors — and no kitchen full of smoke.