Is Canola Oil Flammable? (A 5 point guide)

In this article, we will answer the following question: “Is Canola Oil Flammable?”. We will also talk about the hazards of cooking with oil, and what you must do to reduce risks.

Is Canola Oil Flammable?

It depends. If well stored and properly handled, canola oil is not so flammable, but it can catch fire after being heated. Vegetable oils can even be used as fire starters in barbecues. Attention is always required when dealing with fire and oil at the same time.

What is Canola Oil?

Canola oil is a kind of vegetable oil. It’s derived from the seed of plants from the genus Brassica. The seeds are pressed industrially to extract the oil content.

The oil is relatively low in saturated fats, so it’s considered a little healthier than others like soybean oil, for example.

Nutritional value

Here we present average nutritional values for 100 grams of canola oil.

  • Energy: 3,701 kJ (885 kcal)
  • Carbohydrates: None
  • Fat: 100g
    • Saturated: 7.4g
    • Trans: 0.4g
    • Monounsaturated: 63.3g
    • Polyunsaturated: 28.1g
    • Omega-3: 8g
    • Omega-6: 20g
  • Proteins: None
  • Vitamins: –
    • Vitamin C: 17.5mg
    • Vitamin K: 71.3 μg
  • Minerals: None

Health benefits

Unsaturated oils are considered healthy. Moderate consumption can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

A study sponsored by the U.S and Canada showed that canola oil consumption had induced a reduction in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL, the bad one), when compared with diets with saturated fats.

Part of the reason that explains the health benefits of unsaturated oils is because they’re less caloric. If we take a teaspoon of saturated oil and one of unsaturated, the first one will have more weight and more calories.

Canola oil is only healthier in diets that previously used saturated fats. No indiscriminate consumption of oils is healthy for us.

Flammability

In order for us to demonstrate these circumstances for canola oil, we must first explain a few other things.

“Flammable” and “combustible” are just words. It doesn’t really matter if a component is flammable or not. The important thing is to know what can be combustible, and in which circumstances.

We normally attribute something as “flammable” when it can catch fire (be combustible) under mild conditions. Different organizations provide specific standards to specify when compounds might be a fire hazard.

For example, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a global self-funded nonprofit organization, in a document named NFPA 30, states that a flammable liquid is a compound that has a low flashpoint, whose vapors can ignite easily.

Flashpoint

The flashpoint is an intrinsic characteristic of some materials. It is when a compound evaporates, forming a small burnable mist on the top of the main material.

In nature, there are 3 basic states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. Almost all substances in the universe can remain in all these states, under the right conditions.

But the thing is, nothing is ever so black and white. Nature is always more complex than we can anticipate. Even so, people must use all their knowledge to unveil important questions that surround their life.

If you take a simple glass of water for example, even though it seems liquid,  the water is constantly evaporating, but at a very low rate. We normally drink the water before losing any of its content. Any that we are aware of.

We know that water evaporates at 100ºC/212ºF. So how exactly does it happen in a home at 25ºC?

There are two main reasons for that. To understand them, we must think about what’s happening right on the surface of the water.

First, heat is not the only thing that allows evaporation. The water from a glass can dissolve in the air as well.

Second, the water molecules that are on the top border can reach higher temperatures. They absorb much more heat than the inner compounds and store it, eventually grabbing enough energy to lift off. Water vapor is the same as water liquid, but with more energy.

This phenomenon happens in every substance. Some of them, although, require a lot of heat to do so (much more than we can give at home). Others, generate vapors that are not flammable.

We normally name these substances as nonflammable. Water, of course, is one of those examples.

  • Summing up: materials can evaporate much earlier than their boiling point value. A material’s flashpoint is considered the temperature at which something can start evaporating, forming a mist of vapors.
  • If this mist contains combustible vapors, the compound is flammable. If a lot of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are generated, the whole substance is considered very flammable.

Canola oil flammability

Our previous example with the glass of water is also valid for canola oil.

The only main difference is that the oil requires a good amount of heat to produce VOCs so, if well stored, Canola oil is not considered a fire hazard.

Canola oil can still be hazardous if not handled properly. The flashpoint temperature (at 315ºC/ 600ºF) can be reached when using it for cooking, especially while frying stuff. 

But you don’t have to stop using oils because of that.

Preventing fire hazards while cooking

Many things in our kitchen can catch fire after being heated. Here are some examples: Flour, sugar, butter, garlic, snacks, and bread. In fact, most things we eat are flammable if we allow the conditions for them to burn.

The oils we often use in the kitchen have a low chance of getting fire. It will only happen if you force it, or are careless. 

Have you ever heard that oils have a high smoke point? If you put butter in a heated frying pan, it will start releasing smoke, and your meal can embitter. This happens because the butter is burning.

Adding a little oil to it will prevent this burning effect. The reason for it you had probably figured out already.

Vegetable oils are usually hard to burn, which is the reason we use them for frying stuff. In order for it to catch fire, you would have to put flames directly on it, after heating.

What should I do if I set an oil pan on fire?

The most important thing is: never pour water on burning oil. This would put you, your home, and others in danger. 

It’s not easy to extinguish the fire from burning oil. This is because the temperature of the oil makes everything very dangerous because covering the pan can be even more dangerous, and we can’t apply water to it.

Water and oil don’t mix together. If the oil is very hot, once water gets on, it will evaporate quickly, scattering oil particles all around the place. The spilling will burn you and the oil will be even more willing to catch fire.

So here are some quick steps:

  • If it’s safe to do so, turn off the oven.
  • Stay at a safe distance, away from the oven.
  • If you wish to put away the flames, only use a proper fire extinguisher. 
  • Call the authorities for help if the flames are not extinguishing alone
    • Never use water-based extinguishers. If you don’t know what class of extinguisher you have, don’t use it.
    • Never pour water on, it will spread the flames.
    • Covering the pan may cause the water in the food to spread the flames.

Conclusion

Canola oil is considered flammable, but it requires some heating so its vapors can overflow, just like any other cooking oil. Vegetable oils can hard catch fire, but their vapors will if in direct contact with fire. Canola oil is not a fire hazard if handled well.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS): Is Canola Oil Flammable?

is canola oil the same as vegetable oil?

Yes. Canola oil is one kind of vegetable oil. It is made from canola seeds.

is canola oil vegan?

Yes. Canola oil is entirely made of vegetable fats. It is made by squeezing canola seeds until they release the oily content.

is canola oil healthy?

Yes. Canola oil contains a good proportion of unsaturated fats, which are healthier than saturated ones. Canola oil, like other unsaturated oils, can prevent heart diseases and lower the LDL cholesterol (the bad one) in our blood.

Citations

Lin, Lin et al. “Evidence of health benefits of canola oil.” Nutrition reviews vol. 71,6 (2013): 370-85. doi:10.1111/nure.12033

https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Top-fire-causes/Cooking#:~:text=Cooking%20equipment%20is%20the%20leading,food%20or%20other%20cooking%20materials.&text=Frying%20dominates%20the%20cooking%20fire%20problem.
https://site.utah.gov/dps-fire/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2015/04/Most-Common-Flammable-Items-in-Your-Kitchen.pdf
https://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/all-codes-and-standards/list-of-codes-and-standards/detail?code=30
https://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/AboutTheCodes/30/TIA_30_21_1.pdf
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vapor_pressure
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canola_oil
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetable_oil

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