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Fires And The Smoke Point of Oil

Oct 12, 2007
If you cook a lot at home and with oil, then you are probably at least somewhat aware of what a smoke point refers to. Even some of us who do cook fried or stir fried foods often are not fully aware of what a smoke point is and what it might be for the particular kind of oil that we are cooking with.

It is something that every cook should be familiar with, since not knowing the smoke point of the oil that you are cooking with can cause it to catch on fire. Some of the worst house fires ever have been started by cooking with oil in the kitchen and by knowing the smoke point of what you are cooking with, you can reduce the chances of having an oil fire greatly.

Unrefined oils that have been harvested using what is called cold extraction tend to have a lower smoke point than other kinds of oil. These unrefined oils usually have better flavor than refined oils and are usually used in sauting, baking, and for salad dressings. Unrefined oils tend to include avocado oil, some nut oils, and olive oils. Oils that have high smoke points are generally peanut oil, canola, soy, and safflower oil.

A pan containing oil that has reached its smoke point needs to be removed immediately and let to cool. After it cools, it should be thrown out for a number of reasons. Oil that reaches its smoke point starts to break down and will taste very bad, which is why any kind of oil that has reached its smoke point should be thrown out. It will make the food taste bad and the smoke should not be breathed in or the oil consumed, since it can form carcinogens.

You should heat oils gradually because they will perform better than if you just pour them into a very hot pan. As long as they are heated up and cooled off slowly, you can reuse most oils, but you should throw them away as soon as they start to discolor or smell rancid.

One of the worst things that you can do is leave oil to heat in the kitchen on its own. A home catching on fire and burning down completely is not an uncommon occurrence when there is unattended oil heating in the kitchen. What makes this another very bad situation is that oil and electrical fires cannot be put out with water, no matter how much of it you throw on it.

If your oil or stove catches on fire and it is fairly small, you can put it out effectively by using baking soda or using your fire extinguisher. Anyone who cooks with oil on a regular basis should have both of these items close by, just in case.
About the Author
Jim Corkern is a writer and promoter of quality
water damage restoration and
mold remediation companies across the united states
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