One of the essential aspects of food is how it tastes.
Mastering your cooking temperature can save your oil from burning and altering the flavors and the taste of your food.
Depending on the type of oil, cookware, and heat source, your smoke point can range from 300ºF – 520ºF(150ºC – 270°C). Regulating temperature is vital to prevent your cooking oil from burning. Using a cooking thermometer will accurately help you set your heat source and reduce the chances of exceeding the recommended temperature for your oils.
There are several essential items you should consider to prevent oil from reaching its smoke point and burning. In this article, I will also provide some pro tips that will help you maintain the taste of your food and keep you safe!
Prevent oil from burning and preserve the taste of your food
Depending on the type of oil you use and the temperature you heat it with can significantly alter the taste and flavor of your food.
There are two ways you could place food in oil.
You can place the food in the oil as it gradually heats up to reach its ideal temperature. Depending on what you’re cooking, this might not be ideal for some types of foods because the oil will permeate into your food and settle before it cooks entirely. This can cause certain types of food to have a greasy taste.
The other way is heating the oil, then placing food items in just before the oil hits its ideal cooking temperature.
The temperature of your oil will drop a bit due to the cold food item.
Hot oil will still permeate your food, but it will provide more of an evenly cooked food item with less oil saturation.
What is Smoke Point?
Wikipedia defines Smoke Point as:
“The smoke point, also referred to as the burning point, is the temperature at which an oil or fat begins to produce a continuous bluish smoke that becomes clearly visible, dependent upon specific and defined conditions.”
How to find the right temperature to prevent oil from burning
One sure shot way to get the right temperature range is by using a digital thermometer.
As you gradually heat your cooking pan, periodically point your thermometer and check the temperature each time.
The typical digital thermometer has a digital display that provides a convenient readout. You don’t need to make your digital thermometer touch the surface of your cookware to get a readout.
All you need to do is hold and hover your digital thermometer 2 – 3 inches above your cookware surface and press the trigger to activate.
Once your oil reaches the ideal temperature, then you could place your food item in the oil.
Regulate your heat to prevent cooking oil from burning
There are several critical factors in regards to regulating your heat.
Stove: Depending if you have an electric or gas stove, this will also affect the rate at which your cookware and oil heat up.
Cookware: Depending on the type of material, your cookware is made out of, it will affect how your oil is heated.
The difference in smoke points between plant-based and animal-based fats
In today’s market, you can find a wide variety of oil that has different smoke points. Most of these oils can be purchased at your local grocery store.
In this section, I will separate the types of oils into two main categories – plant-based oils and animal-based fats.
Other than the obvious differences, one oil originates from animals, and the other comes from a plant – there are a few key differences.
- Plant-based cooking oil has a higher cook temperature than its animal-based fat counterpart.
- Animal-based fats will start to solidify if left sitting at room temperature. Plant-based cooking oil will not solidify if left sitting at room temperature.
- Animal-based fats come from the liver and beneath the skin of the animal. Plant-based oil is stored in seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
- Animal-based fats provide a different flavor than Plant-based oils.
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Top 3 Plant-based oils with high cooking temperature
Top 3 Animal-based fats with high cooking temperature
1. Beef Tallow
2. Chicken Fat or Schmaltz
3. Duck Fat
Using proper cookware to prevent oil from burning
High temperature is not the only factor when it comes to oil burning. Your cookware plays a role in how heat is distributed. The transference of heat forms the very basis of cooking. Therefore thermal conductivity plays a significant role in the process.
Not only can cookware play a role in burning oil, but the thermal properties can also impact the taste, smell, and texture of your food!
Understand your cookware and how it distributes heat.
Some cookware like cast iron will distribute heat evenly, thereby allowing your pan not to have one concentrated area of heat.
Type of Pan Materials
- Stainless steel
- Sandwiched bottom
- Coated (e. g. enamel, PTFE, ceramic)
Avoid cooking with finishing or flavored oils
When heated, some oils break down, lose flavor, and possibly become unhealthy to consume.
Avoid cooking with finishing oil or flavored oils, especially in high heat.
These oils are also known as condiment oils. You might find them in the specialty aisle at the grocery store, and they tend to be a bit pricier.
You should stay away from using most gourmet flavor-infused oils for any time of high-temperature cooking!
These types of oils have a lower smoke point and are easy to burn. They are typically made for drizzling over a salad and other food items to add flavor and visually dress it up.
What if my oil passes Smoke Point?: The Dangers of Burning Oils
Besides the obvious issues of injury and inhaling smoke, there are several other dangers in regards to your oils reaching smoke point.
When oils reach levels past smoke point, which is referred to as flash point and fire point, oils can ignite and cause a fire.
The majority of stove related fires are caused by cooking with oil or grease.
According to the National Fire Protection Association(NFPA), cooking-related fires accounted for 630,000 reported residential fires in 2016. This resulted in approximately 700 deaths and 6500 injuries in the United States of America.
Remember, you should never leave your stovetop unattended if you’re are cooking food!
If a pan with oil on your stovetop catches fire, never use water to try to put it out! Water and oil do not mix! The water will cause the flames to rise fiercely, and it will intensify the fire.
If the fire is somewhat small and manageable, you could use a lid or tray to smother it quickly. Or you could pour baking soda or salt on it.
I recommend keeping a fire extinguisher in your kitchen.
The link below provides some helpful resources to deal with stovetop fires.
We spend a tremendous amount of time preparing the food we eat so that we can enjoy it! So why haphazardly heat oil to the point that it could potentially ruin the taste of your food or even cause injury.
Adding a few basic steps to your cooking routine could save most of your future dishes from being cooked with burnt oil and keep you safe in the process.