It's all about that smoke point.
Whether you’re a big vegetable fan, meat eater, or both, it’s no wonder why roasting is one of the first kitchen tasks every home cook masters. After all, the golden brown, perfectly caramelized result that can come of drizzling a dish in oil and popping it in the oven is a pretty astonishing kind of kitchen magic.
Oil is an essential part of the roasting process, as fat is necessary to achieving that delicious caramelization we expect of our roasted dishes. However, with seemingly endless oil options available today it can be hard to figure out just which oils work best for our various cooking tasks—and roasting in particular.
The two key components for choosing a roasting oil are the flavor and smoke point. While the flavor aspect is fairly instinctual, the smoke point of an oil is more likely to be a mystery. The smoke point is the temperature at which each variety of oil will start to smoke and eventually burn. Once the oil is heated beyond its smoke point, not only can it potentially take on a burnt or bitter flavor, but the nutritional value and fat content can also be depleted.
While there’s a good chance you’ve never given much thought to smoke points, its likely your oil choices have already been influenced by smoke points whether you know it or not. For example, refined oils like canola and vegetable oil have higher smoke points than unrefined oils, and therefore are typically used for frying, which requires a higher cooking temperature. However, when it comes to roasting—which can occur at numerous different temperature points—choosing an oil isn’t as simple.
Whether you’re roasting a cut of meat low and slow, or a pan of vegetables on high to crispy burnt-edge perfection, these are the best roasting oils for every temperature.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – This unrefined olive oil has become a mainstay in just about every kitchen thanks to its rich, full flavor. However, with a great depth of flavor also comes a low smoke point that isn’t ideal for most roasting recipes. With a smoke point of just 325 degrees, this oil is best used for low and slow cooking, or for drizzling and other heat-free tasks.
Coconut Oil – This trendy oil has a warm, luscious flavor that pairs well with numerous ingredients. However, with a low smoke point of just 350 degrees, it’s best to use this oil in recipes that require a lower temperature. While this oil is high in saturated fat, and shouldn’t be used in excess, a small amount can make for a delicious compliment to your vegetables or proteins.
Vegetable Oil – This common household ingredient, which is typically made from a blend of numerous refined oils, has a neutral taste that isn’t going to alter the flavor of your dishes in any substantial way. With a smoke point of 400 degrees, vegetable oil is a great option for those who want a roasting oil with a flavor that won’t overpower the dish itself.
Canola Oil – Similar to vegetable oil in both taste and smoke point—about 400 degrees—canola oil is another extremely neutral oil that is good for medium temperature roasting jobs that benefit from not taking on the flavor of the oil itself.
Sesame Oil – This neutral-flavored oil has a relatively high smoke point of 410 degrees, which makes it a great candidate for roasting. To infuse more sesame flavor into your dishes, opt for toasted sesame oil instead, which has a much more prominent flavor but lower smoke point that isn’t suitable for roasting.
Grapeseed Oil – With a clean but distinct flavor, there’s no wonder that grapeseed oil has become a favorite of chefs everywhere. This oil also has a smoke point of 420 degrees, making it an excellent high temperature option that will give your roasted dishes a greater depth of flavor.
Olive Oil – This non-extra virgin variety of olive oil, sometimes labeled “regular,” “light,” or “pure” is chemically refined—like canola or vegetable oil—to achieve a neutral flavor and super high smoke point of about 465 degrees. While this oil won’t have the rich flavor of its extra virgin counterpart, it is the better choice for higher heat roasting.
Peanut Oil – This extremely flavorful oil is great for frying and high heat roasting, as it has a smoke point of 450 degrees. However, cooks need to be mindful of peanut oil’s dominant flavor, which is sure to be prominent in any dish. Therefore, this oil is best used in Asian-inspired dishes and other recipes that will benefit from the presence of a strong nutty flavor.
Sunflower Seed Oil – This neural-flavored oil has a smoke point of about 440 degrees, making it a great choice for high heat roasting, as well as sautéing and frying. However, sunflower seed oil does expire faster than many oils, so be sure to use your bottle within a year of purchasing.
Palm Oil – This oil is one of the most widely used cooking fats in the world, thanks to its affordability and high smoke point of 450 degrees. However, palm oil is also high in saturated fat and therefore should be used sparingly if you have any pressing concerns about your cholesterol levels or heart health.
Super High Heat
Avocado Oil – For those who want to take your roasting temperatures sky-high, avocado oil can be heated to a whopping 520 degrees. However, with a higher price tag than most oils, we’d recommend using this oil on occasion, rather than for everyday roasting jobs.
Roasting Oils to Avoid
Flaxseed oil – While this nutty oil can make a great finishing touch to dishes, it does not react well to being heated, and therefore isn’t qualified for roasting at any temperature. You should also store this oil in the fridge to avoid it spoiling quickly.
Hemp Seed Oil – This sensitive oil doesn’t hold up well to heat, so its best to be drizzled over finished dishes as a flavorful garnish. Luckily, with a rich flavor and distinctive color it makes for a great finishing touch.
Toasted Nut Oils – While toasted nut oils like toasted sesame and walnut are super flavorful, and great for adding a final touch to your dishes, they are also sensitive to heat and therefore aren’t a great option for roasting and other high-heat tasks.