T Nation

Oils Beyond Smoke Point


What exactly happens to oils beyond smoke point?

All i get from google searches is that they become "toxic" and form free radicals that harm the body and cause cancer.

Obviously cancer is enough to make me stop using low smoke point oils during cooking, but I am just curious if there is any other harmful effects.



ask and ye shall receive


cliff notes - basically makes oil produce chemicals called aldehydes that wreak free radical carnage in your body.

If you are using a mostly saturated fat like butter, ghee or coconut oil then you don't really need to worry


I was under the impression that butter had a relatively low smoke point? From Wikipedia it says butter: 250-300F/121-149C coconut oil: 350F/177C and ghee: 485F/252C.


you're absolutely right Rattler, I should've qualified my statement that butter is good for cooking assuming you're not flash frying something.

If you're flash frying something at mega high heats then ghee or lard would be a better choice (lard smells awful when you're cooking but doesn't really have a taste) than butter, but for general cooking butter is fine.


Thanks for the clarification. Would coconut oil still be okay for frying things? I cook my chicken and fry eggs in it.


definitely, coconut oil is the bees knees. Sure is expensive though.


You're from the UK aren't you? I got mine from Amazon in a big 800g tub or something and it's lasted me a fair amount of time. Can't remember what brand it is cause the label has fallen off but I'll check my food logs to see. Where do you get yours from?


Yeah mate, Scotland. You can find it in health food shops but it costs a ridiculous amount. I saw it once for £15 for a small jar.

I could probably get it cheap online but I go through butter, lard etc so fast it's just easier for me to buy cheap sticks of butter.

In a perfect world I'd buy grass fed steaks, cook them in coconut oil and eat them with organic vegetables, but I can't afford to do so. I buy the shit quality store brand meats, cook them in store brand butter and eat them with veg marinated in DDT.


Yeah just checked and the biona organic one I got was £13-14 so definitely worth it if you use it regularly.

I hear you. Living as a astudent currently so definitely cannot afford grass fed meats but I do my best with eating the leaner meats and adding in good fats and vegetables.


man if you haven't already, check out those email discount things like Groupon. Every now and then you get an offer for a big box of organic, grass fed meat from a local farm dirt cheap.

I've got a load of grass fed beef and venison arriving tomorrow, got £30 worth for like £9 with free delivery.

Doesn't happen very often, but well worth it when it does.


Will sign up now! Thanks for the tip.


Thanks for the link RDS, i'll take a look at it when i get a chance too


Butter has a low burning point due to the "little milk" found in the butter. It falls to the bottom and sticks to the pan. Ghee on the other, is butter without the little milk and 'scum".

Coconut oil is not made for Chinese woking. just use it to caramelize vegetables (low heat). The aroma in the house after is unbeatable (IMO).

A little trick is to use a little oil in the pan before adding your pat of butter. Just throw your veggies / meat in the pan right after the butter touches the oil though.


funny you should say that about Chinese woking. I recently bought a chinese cookbook (yes, I am one of the few who still buys cookbooks) and pretty much all recipes start off by saying "put oil in the pan and heat until it smokes"

you'd think that'd be a bad thing but apparently not in Chinese cooking.

It's usually some form of nut oil in the recipe


I cook a lot on high heat, mostly using coconut oil. I understand the smoke point thing, but once you start cooking food, I don't think the temperature is that big of deal. The oil stops smoking, you are constantly turning and moving the food so the oil heats and cools, etc. I just wouldn't deep fry something at or above a smoke point. Sauteing or stir frying doesn't appear, to me, that big of a deal.


Does anyone know what the cooking temperatures are for different methods of cooking, for example making an omelet or sunny side eggs vs stir frying etc. I looked it up online but found conflicting answers. I also find conflicting opinions on smoke points of different oils. Between these two it makes it difficult trying to figure out what to use and when. Anyone know reputable or factual sites to go to?



My background. I am a Red Seal chef with over 17 years experience.

It's an art more then a science and rule of thumbs apply, as well as experience.

Stir frying requires high heat. heat pan, add oil and food in correct order. As mentioned above, your oil will not burn, unless you leave it in the pan at high heat for a few minutes. Basic concept. High heat, small cut vegetables and meats for quick cooking and to lock in the flavours. Lots of videos out there on the proper technique.

Omelette. same as above. Pre cook all meats and vegetables. heat up pan, lots of oil, drop your eggs and stir (using the double method of stirring with a spatula and moving the pan). Once 75-80% done, take off heat, add your filling, fold and serve. Yeah, it takes practice.

Sunny side up. Low heat, add fat, let it melt (this is where I always use coconut oil), add egg.

The biggest thing is to always cook with a hot pan, add oil/fat, add ingredients.

The basic concept is simple. Hot pan (start at setting 6-7, no two ovens are exactly the same), add oil, cook. If it's too hot for what you are doing, lower next time. Not hot enough? Wait a little longer or increase the heat. If, for example, you take an egg and it just sits in the fat and s-l-o-w-l-y turns white, pan is too cold. If, on the other hand, it bubbles on the side, turns brown and just makes a racket, well, it's too hot.

It's all about practice.

As for the smoke point: it is actually written in stone. Look at it this way. Take a cast iron pan, heat it up on 10. Now put in a teaspoon of oil. yeah, it will burn pretty fast (simple chemistry). Now take the same pan and put in a cup of oil....

Make sense?


Actually yes it did help a lot thanks for that. Can you also point me in the right direction of a site that has accurate smoke points for oils? I found a few but they were conflicting.


wiki spreadsheet is quite good.

Please remember that there are variants. Quality of oil, method used, etc. But in the end, it's pretty accurate.

Hell, I use a drop of toasted sesame oil in my olive oil (I picked that up from Graham Kerr) when I cook.


Ok great info thanks a lot.