Our guests ask the best questions at our tasting bars. I would like to share some of the most asked questions here with you. Today I will talk a bit about one of the more popular topics these days. Can I cook with olive oil? I read that it is dangerous to heat up olive oil.
Well friends, the answer is yes! Thank you for reading this.
Truly, all around the Mediterranean Sea for millennia olive oil has been the main fat in the diet. Used for cooking, dressing fruits and vegetables, medicinally, and ceremonially.
People cook food for a few different reasons. For nutrition, for health, for flavor. When we first discovered fire and started to cook our food with it, it revolutionized our diets. Since then we have always been trying to improve on these three aspects of cooking food. We will address them one at a time over the next few weeks.
The top reason that people give for not cooking with olive oil is health related. They say that they read that olive oil has a low smoke point and that is unhealthy when you cook with it. Search the internet and you will see so many articles that talk about the low smoke point of olive oil and how when it reaches its smoke point potential carcinogenic compound may be released. Well let’s look into this a little deeper
and see what is really going on.
First let’s discuss what exactly smoke point means. According to Wikipedia (I know, but I thoroughly checked the references that were used and found them to be extremely credible.) The smoke point, also referred to as the burning point, is the temperature at which an oil or fat begins to produce a
continuous bluish smoke that becomes clearly visible, dependent upon specific and defined conditions.
At this point as the oil begins to breakdown, certain chemicals are released that not only create burnt flavors and aromas but can create chemicals that could cause heath related issues. You can look up several charts that show several completely different smoke points for olive oil and fresh or extra virgin olive oil. Depending on the age of the olive oil being tested the smoke point will vary dramatically. Unfortunately here in the United States a majority of the olive oil available to us in grocery stores is imported. Most of the imported olive oil is not the freshest or highest quality. Since most Americans are unfamiliar with the flavor of fresh olive oil, they don’t know the difference between what they get in the grocery store and the fresh stuff. Remember olive oil is fruit juice and the fresher the better. Both for flavor, nutrition and heat stability. All olive oils are high in oleic acid which helps with heat stability. That is why almost any olive oil is going to have a smoke point up to 350 degrees F. But fresh olive oil is loaded with wonderful antioxidants that protect the oil as it is being heated. Fresh squeezed olive oil has a smoke point well over 400 degrees F. Most baking is done at between 350F and 375F so olive oil is perfect for those applications. Sautéing is usually around 250F to 300F so that is no problem whatsoever. And the ideal temperature for deep frying is between 365F and 375F so YES YOU CAN DEEP FRY with fresh olive oil!
Now, its true that there are other oils that have higher smoke points. Most of these oils are refined oils that, because they are so highly processed that they do not contain any anti-oxidants or any flavor. The high smoke point is due to the refining process taking out any components which can possibly burn at lower temperatures. These components are what give flavor and health benefits. Besides smoke point there are other considerations when choosing a fat for cooking. Oxidative stability is much more important than smoke point when cooking. Once again according to Wikipedia and its sources; Oxidative stability is how resistant an oil is to reacting with oxygen, breaking down and potentially producing
harmful compounds while exposed to continuous heat. Oxidative stability is the best predictor of how an oil behaves during cooking.  .
Oxidative stability of a fat is dependent on its chemical make up. Seed oils like canola have higher polyunsaturated fat which is much less stable. Since olive oil has the most monounsaturated fat contents it is highly stable as it is being heated. The tests for determining the oxidative stability of a fat show that olive oil is over 4 times as stable when heated than a seed oil like canola.
Fresh Olive oil also contributes so many other phytochemicals that help our bodies in so many ways. Add to it, fresh olive oil adds so much wonderful flavors to your food. (Which we will discuss in more detail next time). Why would you choose anything else??!! Try using our late harvest Olivum to fry up some squash blossoms stuffed with feta cheese or just slice a potato thinly fry it and add a little sea salt for the best potato chips you have ever had!