(NaturalNews) Selecting which cooking oil to use can be confusing, especially as there is such a variety available in grocery stores these days. Knowing what oil to use for a cooking project such as baking or frying and trying to use the best oil for health can add to the confusion. Understanding at what temperature various oils start to smoke and degenerate can help to make decisions easier.
Oils and Smoke Point
When oil is heated to a high temperature, it reaches smoke point. The bluish smoke that can then be seen means the oil is close to burning and is the temperature at which fats and oils begin to break down. Nutrition and flavor degradation occur at these temperatures. The chemical composition of the oil changes, sometimes with effects that are harmful to health. A low smoke point means the oil should not be cooked with at all, or only slightly. A high smoke point oil should be used for cooking at higher temperatures, for example pan frying.
Macadamia Nut Oil
This is an excellent frying oil due to its high heat capacity. Macadamia nut oil has a smoke point of 413 degrees F (210 C). It contains up to 85% monounsaturated fats and has a shelf life of around 2 years. It is good for stir fries, searing, baking or deep frying.
The smoke point for olive oil varies considerably and is based on the quality of the oils and the way in which the oil has been extracted. Pomace, extra virgin, virgin and extra light oils all have different qualities, but all are high in monounsaturated fat, making them heart healthy. Olive oil has a relatively high smoke point (the more refined it is, the higher the smoke point). Extra virgin oil breaks down at a lower temperature and is, therefore, best kept for uncooked uses.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 320 degrees F (160 C) Virgin Olive Oil - 420 degrees F ( 216 C) Pomace - 460 degrees F (238 C) Extra Light - 468 degrees F (242 C)
Coconut oil is extracted from fresh coconuts and tolerates a fairly high temperature, making it safe to use as a cooking oil. Smoke point is 350 degrees F (177 C). It is good to use in confections and as shortening. Use good quality, virgin coconut oil.
Unrefined walnut oil has a smoke point of 320 degrees F (160 C). It is, therefore, easily damaged when heated to a high temperature. Walnut oil is best used in small amounts, for salads and salad dressings. It has a rich nutty flavor.
Fleur Hupston is a professional freelance writer. She is passionate about natural, healthy living and is currently studying to be a naturopath. She divides her time between writing for Natural News and various other sites, home schooling her children and studying part time.