This is one of the most frequent questions people ask me.  The food network is always talking about EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and they are only given you part of the information on the subject of cooking oils. 

The smoke point of various fats is important to note because a fat is no longer good for consumption after it has exceeded its smoke point and has begun to break down. Once a fat starts to smoke, it usually will emit a harsh smell and fill the air with smoke. In addition it is believed that fats that have gone past their smoke points contain a large quantity of free radicals which contibute to risk of cancer. Refining oils (taking out impurities) tends to increase the smoke point.

So save those lovely expensive extra virgin olive oils for salad dressings or to drizzle onto your food when you’re done cooking.  For instance, drizzle olive oil onto your seared halibut steak when it finishes cooking. It will soak in the oil and give the fish great flavor. 

For cooking grab an oil with a high smoke point, meaning it won’t burn until a temperature of 400* or more. 

Extra virgin olive oil   320°F

Butter   350°F

Vegetable shortening   360°F

Lard   370°F1

Refined canola oil   400°F

Grapeseed oil   420°F

Peanut oil   440°F

Refined corn oil   450°F

Refined peanut oil   450°F

Refined soy oil   450°F

Soybean oil   495°F

Safflower oil   510°F

Make sense?  Cook on high heat with the ones at the bottom of the list. 

any questions?