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heating up EVOO

Can you cook with it or not?
Relationship between smoke point, quality and olive oil.


The smoke point of olive oil differs by quality and olive species (more than 1500 in the world!) A high quality extra virgin olive oil has a high smoke point. Actually, this is the best choice for heating, but a very expensive one.

 Large-produced, low-quality virgin olive oil has a lower smoke point. In both cases we are still talking about unrefined olive oil, so an oil obtained only from mechanical pressing and not heated or chemically manipulated.  An (extra virgin) olive oil that has been exposed to oxygen, heat or light has partly broken down and also has a lower smoke point, so there is no simple number, it depends on several factors. 

International Olive Oil Council (IOC) : When heated, 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;


For reference, IOC even lists the standard cooking temperatures:

Boiling temperature with plenty of water: potatoes, vegetables

Medium (130-145ºC)

Batter/Crust: Flour, breadcrumbs

Hot (155-170ºC)

Short and fast fried: small fish, croquettes

Very hot (175–190ºC)


Why a high smoke point? A high smoke point is desirable because the best properties of a product emerge when it is properly hot baked. When food is placed in a good hot oil, the sugars caramelize and turn the natural proteins into a thin shell that protects the food from absorbing the oil. In short, the outside remains crispy and the inside is only cooked. But now it is the case that in many cases that 185 degrees is more than enough to achieve this result.(source: Irma Rombauer, the joy of cooking

Extra virgin olive oil is great for heating, and the best fat for frying. Take, for example, a Picual olive oil, which often gets more ripe tomato aroma when heated, ideal for beautiful pasta for example. Unfortunately, an EVOO is too expensive for the deep-fat fryer, which is why there are cheaper alternatives here.


In fact, we are all being fooled by marketing and blogs. We live in a world of boutique oils and our own ideology to create a niche market to be distinctive. Walnut oil, avocado oil, etc... 

Something for everyone, provided the facts are correct. What it's all about now: wanting to be healthy, isn't it? If that's the discussion, why heat it up at all? The healthy properties of your product (such as vegetables) are then quickly lost anyway. Stick to the facts and stay around 180 degrees and there's nothing wrong with a splash of EVOO!

If you are interested in this topic, have a look here:

'Frying Food in Olive oil'; by Gregorio Varela, Professor of Nutrition, Madrid University.

Available here: International Olive Council (IOC).

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