Most of us are aware of all the many health benefits of consuming extra virgin olive oil, and the common assumption is that when it comes to EVOO, the less heat the healthier. For years the belief has been that olive oil loses its health benefits when heated above a certain temperature, namely when frying or sautéing, and can even turn into a “bad oil”.
We wondered how true this is and set out to find some evidence to back up this common ideology, what we came across pointed in the direction of this being more myth than fact.
An article written on Olive Oil Times back in 2012, looked at dispelling the myth that you shouldn’t fry with olive oil. Since then there have been a number of studies that show that olive oil often out performs other vegetable oil when used to fry or cook on high heat with.
The general belief is that the smoking point of olive oil is too low for frying. The smoking point is the temperature at which a chemical change takes place and causes a bitter smoke flavour. In order to be able to fry foods, the smoking point of the oil needs to be pretty high as not to get that horrible flavour. For frying and searing the temperature needs to be around 350 to 370 degrees.
Olive oil has been found to have a smoking point of 380 and 410 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the impurities and acid content of the olive oil: the better the quality, the higher the smoking point. Thus the smoking point of olive oil is well above the temperature required for frying. The flavour should not be affected and you can definitely achieve that crispy exterior.
So we know now that the flavour and the desired texture of the food shouldn’t be negatively affected but going back to our original question, what about the loss of health benefits?
Cooking fats and oils are considered dietary fats of which there are three types, saturated, trans and unsaturated. The first two are bad, but the third, unsaturated fat, includes olive oil, a healthy plant-derived dietary fat. The heat required to raise the temperature of olive oil high enough to fry food cannot change the chemical composition of olive oil from a good one to a bad one. – Olive Oil Times
Other researchers heated extra virgin olive oil to 350°F for a whole 36 hours and found that while there was some degradation in the phenolic compounds content, the oil kept most of its nutritional value.
Thus, frying with olive oil does not alter its benefits, as long as it doesn’t go beyond its smoking point temperature. So sear your steaks, fry your fish and sauté your sauces all using a good quality, fresh extra virgin olive oil and you can do so with peace of mind.