COOKING WITH OLIVE OIL

According to International Olive Committee (I.O.C.), when cooking with olive oil, olive oil is the most stable fat, which means it stands up well to high frying temperatures. Its high smoke point (410ºF or 210ºC) is well above the ideal temperature for frying food (356ºF or 180ºC). The digestibility of olive oil is not affected when it is heated, even when it is re-used several times for frying.

When cooking, the smoke point is the temperature at which the fat or oil starts to break down and produce smoke being a sign of reduction of flavour and nutritional values. Of course it is desirable to use the oil with a high smoke point especially if we are also going to fry with it. We often hear that we must carefully choose the correct oil for frying since it requires very high temperature process and not any oil is fine for frying. This is another commercial lie.

Let’s not get confused: the temperature for deep frying is usually up to 375ºF or 190ºC.

The smoke point of the most common edible oils (according to C.M.E. Group in 2009 33% of the world production of edible oil was palm oil, followed by soybean oil with 28%, rapeseed oil 16%, sunflower oil 8% and coconut, peanut and olive oil 3% or less):

type of oil ºF Fahrenheit ºC Celsius
palm oil 455 235
soybean oil 460 238
canola oil high oleic 475 246
canola oil refined 400 204
sunflower refined 440 227
coconut refined 450 232
peanut refined 450 232
olive oil extra virgin 405 207
refined olive oil 468 242
pomace olive oil 460 238

As we can see, there is no big difference; all these temperatures are over the required temperature for deep frying, so all of them fit from the smoke point of view for all types of cooking and olive oil are one of them. Cooking with olive oil is just fine.

Olive oil is good for frying and except that, keeps its nutritional value better than other oils due to its content of antioxidants and oleic acid. When using olive oil for frying, it helps forming a crust which protects the food from soaking up the oil and improves its flavour. According to I.O.C., food fried in olive oil has lower content of fat than food fried in other oils; therefore, cooking with olive oil is more suitable for weight control. Olive oil can be reused and unlike other oils, it increases in volume when reheated. Olive oil should not be mixed with other oils when cooking.

Please note that the quality of the product is very important, the smoke point will depend on the variety, growing conditions, acidity, antioxidants etc. In other words, the same oil, if oxidized for example, would have lower smoke point etc. This is why the same type of oil might have different levels of smoke point and when looking for this information, rarely the sources will show the same temperatures. But the outrageous thing is when these sources show huge differences. Unfortunately sometimes the truth is sold for money.

Another crazy thing that can be found is that olive oil, when heated changes its content from monounsaturated fat to trans-fat. Well, trans-fats are obtained by adding hydrogen molecule to unsaturated fats in the presence of catalyst. It cannot be done at home. End of story.

Olive oil is o.k. for cooking and even for deep-frying. It has a similar smoke point to the most commonly used edible oils. So if you decided to start cooking with olive oil, do it. You made a good choice!

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