smoke points

222_.jpgI recently ran into our family friend who is a well known chef and got to ask her a question that’s been *burning* at my conscience ever since a certain beloved friend put it on my radar. Is it safe to eat food cooked in hot oil? In particular, I was wondering about my personal hopefully healthy fav, olive oil.

Why wouldn’t it be safe to cook with hot oil? The concern is about an oil’s smoke point, which according to the ever-trustworthy wikipedia, is the
“temperature at which a cooking fat or oil begins to break down. The substance smokes or burns, and gives food an unpleasant taste. Beyond the smoke point is the flash point, the point at which combustion occur.”

We definitely do not want combustion, but even heating an oil past its smoke point can cause it be potentially carcinogenic, as well to leave nasty black grease in your kitchen. However, according to Molly, who is working with food scientists to make her recipes safe and nutritious, olive oil is in the clear (and she highly recommends it as a source of good fat and a way to make vegetables more delicious so you eat more of them).

The oils not to heat are those with super low smoke points, like unrefined walnut oil; those might be best drizzled on salads or even in soup once it’s been served.

To find out the smoke points for your favorite oils, you can check out wikipedia’s list (a few eyeball comparison’s showed it to be comparable with the other lists I found) or read this totally suspect article from the olive oil source (conflict of interest, much?). Note that refined, unrefined, extra virgin, etc, all affect the smoke point.


5 responses to “smoke points

  1. Thanks, Sarah.  This is definitely a confusing subject, and adding another layer to this is a consideration of which oils are healthiest regardless of smoking point.  Olive oil and canola oil are renowned for being “heart healthy”; grapeseed oil does not have this reputation, but supposedly has a very high smoking point.  So do we use the “heart healthy” oils with the lower smoking point, or something like grapeseed oil, which does not have the heart healthy reputation but a higher smoking point?

    You know where I first heard about olive oil being carcinogenic when cooked?  From a certain 1980s TV star who gave a talk I saw about “healthy aging.”  I won’t mention her name, though, because I love her too much to have her labeled eternally as an oil-liar.

    I’m also a little worried now after reading the Olive Oil Source website, which says that heating oil past the smoking point creates a varnish-like coating on things in your house.  I had just recently noticed that the area way above my stove was covered in a mix of dust and varnish-like stuff.  I’ve never seen any oil smoke when I cook with it, though.  Am I creating my own carcinogens and not even knowing it?

    I’ll trust your renowned chef friend, though.  And maybe I’ll try cooking at lower temperatures.

  2. Came across your blog while searching to find out about something that happened to me after drinking synergy kombucha…namely that I felt like I was on speed, mildly, for two days…I drank three of the bottles over a span of three days and the last day, the day before yesterday, I was FLYING and I can still feel some of the lightness in my muscles.

    Strange, strange stuff…I am really curious what it is in there that caused me to have that sort of LSD/shrooms effect for so long. There must be something in there other than acids and vitamins.

    It wasnt unpleasant, but I am not sure what the effects of that on the heart is, my hr was definitely elevated.

    Sorry about posting this here, I noticed your kombucha post was a fairly long time ago and wanted to let you know about my experience.

  3. Guerrilla Health

    hey no problem! i’m not sure why some people would react more strongly than others, other than the same way some of us are lightweights with alcohol and some of us can drink espresso before bed… I drink a lot of kombucha and have found it sometime makes me a little high or floaty, but i have had elevated heart rate.

    one thing is that being fermented, it contains small amounts of alcohol and maybe the batch you had had a little more? also, what’s in kombucha is probiotics, which is bacteria, so i wonder if there are other bacterial substances that make people high (shrooms, maybe? i’m no expert here).

    i tried googling around to see if anyone had your experience but nothing came up right away. let me know if you find anything out!

  4. Hi, sorry I sorta hit and ran, I was on vaca in Florida…now back in frigid Michigan.

    Someone on the yahoo list made the comment that they also had the same experience.

    What is weird is that I had a few more bottles of Synergy and didn’t get the same feeling…

    Weird stuff…weird.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply.

  5. i think reg olive oil has a higher flash point than extra virgin…. that could be of some help.

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