Best Oil For Searing Steak

The best oil for searing steak has a high smoke point and does not overpower the natural flavor of the meat. Avocado oil, refined olive oil or light olive oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, and grapeseed oil are best for searing steak. I’ve included clarified butter since it has a high smoke point and adds an extra depth of flavor to the steak.

As any steak lover knows, the secret to a mouthwatering steak lies in the searing process, which adds a rich, complex layer of flavors and a beautiful, appetizing exterior. A key component of this process is the oil you use, as it not only affects the cooking process but also influences the taste and quality of your cooked meat. 

In this post, I’ll discuss various oil options, their smoke points, and flavor profiles to help you make an informed decision when searing your next delicious steak. The list contains oils we use in restaurants to pan-fry and grill meats.

Here’s a list of oils I recommend as a chef for cooking steaks:

What are the key characteristics of a good oil for searing?

cooking oil for steak
Oil for searing steak

One of the key characteristics of a good oil for cooking steak is its smoke point – the temperature at which an oil starts to break down and produce smoke. Alongside oils for dressing, you should have an oil with a high smoke point, as searing typically requires high heat to achieve that perfect crust on your proteins. Below you’ll find a table with a list of oils and smoke points.

Another key characteristic of a good oil is its flavor profile. Some oils have a neutral taste, like vegetable or canola oil, which allows the natural flavors of your ingredients to shine. Therefore these oils are best for searing steaks. Meanwhile, other oils, such as olive or sesame oil, can impart a distinct flavor to your dish.

Best Oils For Searing Steak

Oils for cooking steak require a high smoke point meaning they should withstand the heat of 400°F and higher.

You can use the oils listed below for grilling steak or the pan-searing method. Place steak on a grill or a hot pan and give it a nice sear for around two minutes on each side before turning the heat down to medium. Continue cooking steak to your preferred doneness.

Here’s a list of high smoke point oils:

Refined Avocado Oil

refined avocado oil
Refined avocado oil

Refined oils have a neutral taste and a high smoke point. Refined avocado oil has a smoke point of 520°F which is more than enough for searing steaks. It’s one of the best oil to cook steak; however, at the same time, it’s one of the most expensive ones.

Remember that unrefined oils are left in their natural state, meaning they are not processed through heating, filtering, or bleaching. Most unrefined oils have a low smoke point which is not great for searing steaks.

When cooking a steak using refined avocado oil, you’ll maintain the meat’s natural flavor. And since it has a high smoke point, it’s unlikely to burn the steak quickly.

Refined or Light Olive Oil

light olive oil
Light olive oil

Refined and light olive oils are excellent for cooking steaks. These oils have a smoking point of 465°F. It’s more than enough for steaks since searing occurs at around 400°F.

Light olive oil is produced using heat after the first pressing. It has a much higher smoke point than extra virgin olive oil and keeps longer on a shelf.

You can instantly notice that light olive oil is yellowish while extra virgin is deep green. Try to use it for cooking steak in a pan. It’s one of the best oil for cooking steak.

Sunflower Oil

sunflower oil
Sunflower oil

Sunflower oil is yet another excellent oil for searing steak. It does have a neutral taste and a high smoke point of 450°F.

However, keep in mind that all unsaturated oils break down with prolonged heating. Sunflower oil is no exception. Once the steak develops a nice golden brown crust, turn the heat to medium and continue cooking to your liking.

Ghee or Clarified Butter

clarified butter
Clarified butter

Ghee or clarified butter is an excellent option for searing steak and adding extra flavor to the meat.

It has a smoke point of 450°F, which is more than enough for meat to develop a golden-brown crust on the exterior.

Ghee butter has a higher smoke point because it was clarified to remove water content and milk solids. The result is that ghee butter contains 99% pure fat.

The cooking process is the same with ghee butter as with any other oil.

Canola oil

canola oil
Canola oil

Canola oil is considered one of the best oil for steak. It is processed from canola seeds, and it can withstand high heat. As you may already know – a higher smoke point is better for searing meats. Canola oil has a smoking point of 400°F.

It can be used for deep frying, sauteing, grilling steak, and salad dressings. It’s versatile cooking oil.

Grapeseed oil

Grapeseed oil
Grapeseed oil

Grapeseed oil comes from grapes, and it’s excellent for cooking steak. It’s considered one of the best oil for pan-frying steak. Grapeseed oil has a relatively high smoke point of 390°F. I tend not to use it for prolonged cooking, meaning I would sear a steak in a cast iron skillet and finish it in the oven.

How To Choose Oil For Cooking Steak

Here’s a chart of oil smoke points:

OilSmoke Point ºF
Refined Avocado Oil520ºF
Safflower Oil510ºF
Rice Bran Oil450ºF
Refined or Light Olive Oil465ºF
Soybean Oil450ºF
Peanut Oil450ºF
Ghee or Clarified Butter450ºF
Corn Oil450ºF
Refined Coconut Oil450ºF
Sunflower Oil450ºF
Refined Sesame Oil410ºF
Vegetable Oil400-450ºF
Beef Tallow400ºF
Canola Oil400ºF
Grapeseed Oil390ºF
Table with a list of oils and smoke points

Refined oils vs. unrefined oils

Refined oils are typically the better choice for searing because they have a higher smoke point, which means they can withstand the high heat required for that delicious crust on your steak. The refining process removes impurities and often results in a more neutral flavor, so the oil won’t compete with the other flavors in your steak and dish accordingly. On the other hand, unrefined oils are less processed and retain more of their natural flavors, nutrients, and colors, which can be great in certain dishes. However, their lower smoke points make them less suitable for searing. 

Neutral oil vs. flavorful oil

Your choice will largely depend on the flavors you want to highlight in your dish and the type of ingredients you’re working with. Neutral oils, such as vegetable, canola, or grapeseed oil, won’t impart any distinct flavors to your steak or dish, allowing the natural taste of the meat to take center stage. They’re versatile and great for searing a wide variety of proteins and vegetables, making them a trusty staple in any kitchen.

On the other hand, flavorful oils like extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, or coconut oil can add an extra layer of depth and complexity to your dish. However, these oils are not so great for searing meat. First of all, most of them do not have a high smoke point, and these oils have their own distinct tastes and may not pair well with meat.


What is searing?

Searing is a process in which steak or any other meat is cooked at a high temperature until a golden-brown crust forms. For searing to occur, you either need to have a very hot skillet or a grill and some cooking oil for food that comes into contact with a hot surface.

Can you sear a steak with vegetable oil?

Yes, you can sear a steak with vegetable oil. It has a high smoke point of around 450°F, which is more than enough for the steak to form a brown crust.

Is olive oil good for searing steak?

Yes, olive oil is good for searing steak; however, make sure it’s light or refined. The unrefined olive oil has a low smoke point, which is unsuitable for cooking steaks.

Is extra virgin olive oil good for searing?

No, extra virgin olive oil is not suitable for searing steak. It has a low smoke point; therefore, it’s better not to use it for searing meats or stir-frying.

Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas is an accomplished chef with over a decade of experience in the culinary world, having worked in esteemed, high-end restaurants across Europe. With a talent for combining traditional techniques and innovative flair, Renaldas has refined his signature style under the mentorship of respected European chefs. Recently, Renaldas has expanded his impact beyond the kitchen by sharing his expertise through his online platform. Dedicated to inspiring culinary professionals and food enthusiasts, he offers expert advice, innovative recipes, and insightful commentary on the latest gastronomic trends.
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