I often have people tell me that they don’t cook with olive oil because it can’t handle high temperatures and becomes carcinogenic. So I thought I would do some research to see if this is true because I’ve been cooking with olive oil for years (and I don’t want to die). Also, if Jamie Oliver cooks with olive oil then it must be fine, right?
I Googled the topic and found that most articles concluded that cooking with olive oil is just fine, no health issues at all. I particularly liked this article at scienceornot.net because the author took the time to look at the scientific evidence in order to reach his conclusion.
Without going into a whole long story, the main points on this topic are these:
- All oil breaks down with heat, but only when an oil reaches its smoking point does it form harmful compounds.
- The smoking point of olive oil (200 °C) is well above the temperature needed for cooking, even deep frying foods (170 °C)
- In fact the smoking point of olive oil is quite average among oils, there are many with lower smoking points
- The better the quality olive oil, the higher the smoking point (take note those who don’t like to cook with extra virgin oil)
As with any food, the health benefits of olive oil are at their peak when it is fresh and raw, but heating it up does not make it unhealthy. In fact it still retains much of its health benefits despite being heated up and therefore it is preferable to cook with olive oil than many other oils.
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