I recently heard a TV chef say that she prefers a certain kind of oil because it has a high smoke point. What is a smoke point, and why does it matter?--Sean
The smoke point of any oil or fat is the temperature at which it begins to smoke. This is important because at or near the smoke point, the oil begins to also undergo chemical breakdown. The byproducts of this breakdown can ruin the taste of the food being prepared. Also, at this temperature there is greater risk that the fumes given off could igniting, causing a fire.
Oils with a higher smoke point will withstand higher temperatures for longer periods of time without degrading as quickly. Chefs prefer certain oils like peanut oil for deep frying because of their high smoke point, and neutral color and flavor.
According to The New Professional Chef, Sixth Edition from the Culinary Institute Of America the smoke points for some common oils are:
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