What Is A Smoke Point?

When a recipe calls for safflower, soybean or peanut oil, it's not just trying to make you feel inadequate about the cooking oils readily available in your kitchen — and no, you can't substitute olive oil. We're pretty sure you're going to anyway — hey, we learn better from mistakes too — but you should know that the smoke points of olive and safflower oil are very different, which might account for the smoke slowly filling up your kitchen. Get our point?

A smoke point is the temperature at which oil smokes...and immediately become unsuitable for cooking because its internal structure, the thing that makes it oil, has begun to break down. Why? Well, what smokes? Burned stuff. In the case of extra-virgin olive oil, that temperature is 320F. Go ahead, test it out with a candy thermometer. The smoke point increases as you travel through the fat universe — butter, coconut oil, lard, sesame oil, palm oil, all the way up to the king of high-heat cooking, avocado oil.

Thanks to truly awesome website Cooking For Engineers, we don't have to list the other 40 some-odd kinds of oil and their smoking points, cause the nerds did it for us!

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