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What is a Smoke Point and Why it Matters to Your Skin?

Not all oils are created equal. There are some you can heat and there are some you shouldn’t.

There are some you can sear in and then others are best for a quick saute and then others should never be heated at all.

This all depends on how the oil is processed and its smoke point.

An oil’s smoke point is the temperature at which it starts to smoke. When an oil smokes, it is breaking down and oxidizing. When an oil oxidizes it breaks down into free radicals and releases harmful compounds that have been linked to cellular damage.

What this means for your skin is lines, wrinkles and sagging.

Every oil has a different smoke point, and this depends on a number of factors that are extremely technical and beyond my comprehension, but I’ll share the overlying information.

Oils are extracted from nuts and seeds of plants by crushing and pressing them. If they are bottled immediately, they are labeled as cold-pressed raw, or virgin and are considered unrefined (DJS ingredients!). They retain their natural flavor and color, as well as their minerals, enzymes and other compounds that are susceptible to rancidity when heated.

Unrefined oils have a shorter shelf life and extremely low smoke point.

These are the oils that are best used for drizzling or dressings and should never be heated. They impart their amazing flavors and nutrients to our food and should be stored in a cool, dark place.

To produce an oil with a high smoke point, these healthy, nutrient rich oils are refined and processed using techniques such as bleaching, filtering and high-temperature heating to eliminate all the nutrients that will become rancid with heat.

What you have left is a neutral-flavored oil with a longer shelf life and a higher smoke point and no nutritional value.

The higher the smoke point of an oil, the more cooking techniques it can be used for.

Here is a list of some of the most popular oils and their smoke points:

Refined Avocado oil - 510°

Safflower Oil - 510°

Refined Olive Oil - 465°

Soybean Oil - 450°

Peanut Oil - 450°

Clarified Butter - 450°

Corn Oil - 450°

Sunflower Oil - 440°

Refined Coconut Oil - 420°

Canola Oil - 400°

Sesame Oil - 350°

Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 325°

Unrefined nut and seed oils (macadamia, hazelnut, avocado, walnut, etc.) – Should never be heated.

The cooking technique you use dictates the oil you will use. When heating anything, always use an oil with a smoke point over 400°, anything below should not be heated.

Here are some tips to get your started:

For dressings and drizzling the goal is flavor. Use an unrefined oil for flavor and nutrients.

For searing the goal is to heat rapidly and promote browning. Use a high smoke point oil such as corn or peanut.

For sauting the goal is heating quickly over lower heat. Use a medium smoke point oil such as refined coconut or canola.

For stir-frying the goal is to brown ingredients using high heat. Use a high smoke point oil such as peanut or safflower.

The holistic nutritionist in me hates the highly refined oils, because the chef in me really only sautes with refined coconut oil, because the skin care maven in me only wants the “me” to consume foods that nourish her body and skin.

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