Smokey the Bear Says, “Use Avocado Oil!”

By Matt Ficke

avocadoMuch as I enjoy cooking, it’s annoying to deal with the billowing clouds of smoke that always seem to result when I really crank the oven up. This is a particular problem when I cook steak[1], since I try for the sake of my roommates’ sanity to avoid setting the smoke detector off in the middle of the night (my preferred steak-consumption time, for some reason). I initially blamed this on my somewhat ill-conceived habit of using extra virgin olive oil for high-heat cooking, but it persisted even with other oils.

Enter avocado oil.

It turns out that avocado oil has a uniquely high smoke point among cooking oils, and as a result my kitchen has been largely smoke-free since I started using it. Apparently this has something to do with how “aromatic” the substance is, a property that my brother the chemical engineer explained[2] has nothing to do with smelling pleasant, but I couldn’t really say. The point is, it’s a handy thing to have around when cooking with a super-hot oven.

A bottle of the stuff is a little pricey (I think it was eight or ten dollars for a smallish bottle), but it lasts a while since I only use it for this one specific purpose. And the label loudly boasts that it’s “made from the oil of 20 avocados!”, so on a per avocado basis it’s a steal.

[1]My method, in brief: Set your oven as high as it will go (550 for mine) and put your pan in until it’s preheated. Remove it, set it over high heat on the range, and sear the oil-coated and salt-and-pepper-seasoned ribeye (or what have you) for 30 seconds on each side in the dry pan. Finish in the oven for 2 minutes on each side. N.B.: This works best with a relatively thick steak. And try not to burn yourself.

[2]Unconvincingly.

6 responses to “Smokey the Bear Says, “Use Avocado Oil!”

  1. It sounds like you should consider frying in clarified butter? Butter + steak > anything.

  2. Your brother is right, although avocado is nothing special. Note that, here, aromaticity has nothing to do with the culinary term aromatic.

    The smoke point of oils is when they begin to break down at the chemical level. The separating solids pull free of the fat and burn.

    Avocado’s smoke point is somewhere around 490 degrees F, depending on the quality of the pressing. The high smoke point is a function of the conjugation of the fat bonds, which is called aromaticity. A compound is aromatic if it is particularly stable given its conjugation.

    I agree with Zach, clarified butter is a better substitute. I don’t get the point of using avocado oil to pan-roast a steak.

    Personally, I’d use grape seed oil.

    Anything but olive.

  3. I use oil instead of butter mostly because of laziness and a tendency to not plan ahead. I don’t have to make it and it’s liquid at room temperature. But you’re right, clarified butter is excellent, and a good choice when I’m not drunkenly craving protein at 2 a.m.

  4. So you’re going pan to oven. Have you tried the other way? Start it in the oven, 3 minutes or so a side at 400, and then finish it in the pan. That way you wouldn’t have to heat the oven so high.

  5. mmm….benzene…

    although, technically an aromatic bond is conjugation in a cyclic structure (benzene, toluene, all that fun stuff…woo delocalization!) So, basically I misspoke when I said that (I’ve got a reputation to preserve!) The essence is right, though

  6. Avocado is great and and healthy, but also try coconut oil, which is extremely good for you. It comes solid in jars but melts on contact with pretty much anything, melting at 76°F. The smoke point of unrefined coconut oil is 350°F, while refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point of 450°F. Like olive oil (and hazelnut and sesame oils), when used in cooking it’s best used for light sauteing and shouldn’t be overheated.

    Coconut oil turns to liquid on skin immediately. It’s antimicrobial, antibiotic and antioxidant, decreases risk of heart disease, speeds metabolism, supports thyroid function,lowers cholesterol, and is good for skin and hair.

    I don’t remember how much a jar costs, but it’s not enough to make me consider it a luxury. I think that a 454gram jar was under $10. Also, a little goes a long way. If using it as skincare just a dime-sized amount melts and spreads.

    (Source available upon request, but Google coconut oil and you’ll find tons of info validating what I’ve said. I started with information from memory and then did a quick search for more info.)

    Good article:
    What Oil Should You be Cooking With, and Which Should You Avoid?
    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/10/15/cooking-oil.aspx

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