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The following is a typical scenario of what happens as vegetable oil, contained in a cooking vessel, reaches
its flashpoint temperature and self ignites:
The oil first becomes darker and emits an unpleasant odor
At about 440˚F, the oil begins emitting a pale vapor smoke.
At about 500˚F, the smoke turns black.
Soon a heavy, thick black smoke belches out.
At about 600˚F, a small flame flickers out from the oil. At this point the cooking oil has reached its
point of self-ignition.
If the heat source below the vessel remains engaged, the flame will quickly grow.
All the while cooking oil burns, thick black smoke continues to belch forth.
Another point many people do not know is that over-heated cooking oil that catches fire can make a
huge flame. For example, a small 12" skillet with only 1/2" deep of cooking oil can create a flame
7- ft to 9- ft high! A large cooking vessel containing up to 3 gallons of cooking oil can create a flame
up to 15- ft high!
On average, every year in the U.S. there are 80,000 kitchen/house fires caused by burning cooking
oil that are responded to by a Fire Department. Imagine a 3- ft high kitchen stove supporting a cooking
vessel emitting a 7- ft flame… that is a dangerous house fire!
The vast majority of these kitchen fires are the result of leaving cooking oil unattended. Simply answering
the door bell, phone or tending to a crying child are sufficient distractions that allow a 12" skillet with
1/2" cooking oil to over-heat and catch fire.
Eventually, burning cooking oil will self extinguish. Actual burn out time does vary but on average:
A 12" skillet with 1/2" deep cooking oil will self extinguish in about 5 - 7 minutes after first flame emits.
A cooking vessel with 3- gallons of cooking oil will self extinguish in about 20 - 25 minutes after the
first flame emits.
Either way a very large flame is raging long enough to spread fire to any combustible structure that it touches.
Another well known point is that cooking oil can be re-used. Most cooking oil brands recommend using
oil 4 - 5 times if it is strained, and can be stored in a cool dark place from 9 - 12 months.
During the storage period bacteria will form on poultry, fish or animal fats remaining in the oil. This
bacteria is quickly killed when the oil is re-heated. Prior to using again, it is recommended that you smell
the cooking oil. If it smells unpleasant or rancid, discard properly and use new cooking oil.
However, most people are unaware that used cooking oil has a reduced Smoke Point and Flash Point
temperature due to partial breakdown of the oil. (Partial break-down is caused by previous use and
bacteria) Although safe for normal use, this is just another reason to never, ever leave cooking oil
unattended during heat up and cooking.
Cooking Oil facts to Remember:
100% peanut Oil is considered a very stable cooking oil having a higher Smoke and Flash Point
temperature than other vegetable oils.
Some cooking oil is sold as a "blend" of vegetable and peanut oil.
Re-used Vegetable and Peanut Oil both have reduced Smoke and Flash Point temperatures.
As a result, Flash Point temperature of cooking oil ranges from 550˚F to 700˚F.
Remember; Think Safety and use Common Sense when frying with cooking oil/grease.