There are several different types of oils used for cooking, and it can be a little overwhelming when it comes time to decide which one you should use. One of the features that will likely impact your decision is the oil’s smoke point, or the point when it starts to burn and create smoke.
Here are 15 of the most popular cooking oils along with their smoke points, from lowest to highest:
- Flaxseed oil (225°F)
- Hemp seed oil (332°F)
- Unrefined coconut oil (350°F)
- Canola oil (400°F)
- Sesame oil (410°F)
- Virgin olive oil (410°F)
- Grapeseed oil (420°F)
- Corn oil (450°F)
- Palm oil (450°F)
- Peanut oil (450°F)
- Sunflower oil (450°F)
- Vegetable oil (~450°F)
- Soybean oil (453°F)
- Safflower oil (510°F)
- Avocado oil (520°F)
Read on for more color on each oil (if we missed your favorite, let us know in the comments section…we may add it in the future!)…
What is the smoke point?
The smoke point is the temperature when a particular oil begins to burn and turn into smoke. You want to avoid heating an oil beyond its smoke point because it can burn the food and release irritating and potentially harmful smoke throughout your kitchen or cooking area.
Oils have different smoke points, which can vary among brands and types of oil. For example, refined oils like refined coconut oil and canola oil have a higher smoke point than unrefined oils because impurities and some free fatty acids are removed during the refinement process.
If you want to cook at high temperatures, you’ll be better off with an oil with a high smoke point. Oils with lower smoke points can be better for baking since the oil isn’t directly heated, or other lower-heat cooking methods.
The smoke point of 15 popular cooking oils
All of the smoke points listed are approximate – there is typically a range for smoke points since it can vary among varieties of oil and any refining processes they’ve undergone. Here they are from lowest to highest (alphabetical for ties):
Flaxseed oil – 225°F
Flaxseed oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, but the smoke point is quite low. Flaxseed oil isn’t the best choice for cooking over heat, but is an excellent finishing oil for dipping bread in or drizzling over salads.
Hemp seed oil – 332°F
Pressed from the ripened seeds of hemp plants that don’t contain significant amounts of THC (the main psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant), hemp seed oil has the second-lowest smoke point oil on this list after flaxseed oil.
Hemp seed oil offers a nutty flavor suitable for lower-heat cooking or quick cooking methods. You can also use it to make salad dressings to utilize its unique flavor without having to heat it.
Unrefined coconut oil – 350°F
Unrefined coconut oil (aka virgin coconut oil) is the third oil on this list with a smoke point under 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Coconut oil might not hold up to high-heat cooking as well as other oils, but it’s a great choice for baking (especially vegan and non-dairy dishes) and other lower-heat cooking methods.
Refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point (closer to 400-450°F) but has a more mild flavor and may lack some nutritional value due to the refining process.
(Want to start baking with coconut oil? We’ve written a fun primer.)
Canola oil – 400°F
Canola oil has a neutral flavor and might be preferred by some people over olive oil. It has a decently high smoke point suitable for moderate-heat cooking. Canola oil is generally highly processed and can undergo the use of chemical solvents like hexane, which is why less refined oils tend to be more popular among health enthusiasts.
Sesame oil – 410°F
A popular oil to add a nutty flavor to many types of dishes, sesame oil has a moderately high smoke point and is great for stir-fries and salad dressings.
Virgin olive oil – 410°F
Olive oil is among one of the most popular cooking oils and has a moderately high smoke point compared to some other oils, but it isn’t the best for super high heat cooking. Light olive oil is refined and has a higher smoke point (around 486 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to virgin olive oil.
Olive oil is known for its potential health benefits such as promoting healthy cholesterol levels and reducing inflammation thanks to its monounsaturated fat content.
Grapeseed oil- 420°F
Made from the seeds of grapes during the wine-making process, grapeseed oil is a good choice for sauteing, stir-frying, pan-frying, and other methods that don’t require a large amount of oil. Using large amounts of grapeseed oil isn’t the most cost-effective choice since it can be more expensive than other oils on this list, so it probably isn’t the best choice for deep-frying which requires a large amount.
Corn oil – 450°F
Corn oil can withstand moderately high heat cooking such as sauteing and frying and is a popular choice for making tortilla chips and other snack chips. It’s one of the more cost-effective oils due to the subsidization of corn in the United States – in fact, corn is the most abundant crop in the US!
Palm oil – 450°F
Palm oil is a popular ingredient in processed and packaged foods and has a high smoke point. It’s solid at room temperature (similar to coconut oil) because of its high saturated fat content.
Peanut oil – 450°F
The most popular oil among restaurants tends to be peanut oil thanks to its high smoke point, which allows food to be cooked quickly with a crispy coating with limited oil absorption. Peanut oil also has a mild flavor, especially the refined types.
Sunflower oil – 450°F
Sunflower oil is a popular cooking oil for searing, sauteing, and everything in between thanks to its higher smoke point. It has a mild flavor and is rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant.
Vegetable oil – ~450°F
Vegetable oil can be made from any plant source, but it primarily is made from soybeans (so vegetable oil usually is the same as soybean oil). The reason it’s marketed as vegetable oil and not soybean oil is for marketing and labeling purposes – some manufacturers might add in other types of oils like corn oil without having to change the label since it’s still technically vegetable oil.
Soybean oil – 453°F
Soybean oil is higher in omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids can be pro-inflammatory in large amounts, so it’s something to consider when striving for an optimal omega-6:omega-3 ratio of around 4:1 (a typical Western diet tends to be much higher in omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega-3 with a ratio closer to 10:1).
Safflower oil – 510°F
Not to be confused with sunflower oil, safflower oil is made from seeds of the safflower plant. There are two forms of safflower oil – high oleic safflower oil and high linoleic sunflower oil. High oleic safflower oil contains more monounsaturated fats, while high linoleic safflower oil contains more polyunsaturated fats.
Both mono- and polyunsaturated fats are considered heart-healthy, especially when replacing saturated fats found in animal products like meat and full-fat dairy.
Safflower oil has a the second-highest smoke point on this list, making it a great option for high-heat cooking needs.
Avocado oil – 520°F
You won’t find a cooking oil with a higher smoke point than avocado oil! Suitable for high-heat cooking, avocado oil won’t make your kitchen smoky when you’re pan frying or searing meat or other foods (within reason of course – if you crank the heat high enough for long enough, food cooked in avocado oil can still burn!).
Oils with a more neutral flavor are best for deep-frying, such as canola oil and peanut oil.
A high smoke point means that an oil can withstand higher temperatures when it’s heated before it turns to smoke. In general, a high smoke point is one that is 400°F or higher.
Avocado oil has the highest smoke point among common cooking oils at 520°F. A close second is safflower oil with a smoke point of 510°F.
Flaxseed oil has the lowest smoke point (225°F) among common cooking oils, so it’s not suitable for high-heat cooking.
In theory, any vegetable, but in practice it tends to be soybean oil. Some brands will blend it with corn oil or other oils.