The smoking point of an oil is the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke and break down. Because food cooked in oil that has reached its smoking point can acquire a burnt, bitter flavor, it’s important to know if an oil’s smoking point is appropriate for your intended cooking method. (If you’re not heating the oil for a recipe, its smoking point is irrelevant.) Smoking points can range from a low of about 325 degrees to a high of about 520 degrees. The exact smoking point of an oil is determined by the volume of free fatty acids it contains; the more free fatty acids, the lower the smoking point. Generally speaking, vegetable oils have fewer free fatty acids than animal fats, and refined vegetable oils have fewer free fatty acids than unrefined ones. Oils with a smoking point of 400 degrees or higher are more versatile for a range of applications and can be used for high-heat cooking methods such as searing, stir-frying, and deep frying.
Although the exact smoking point for each type of oil can vary due to fluctuations in composition, volume, and the environment, among other things, the following numbers are good guidelines.