Dispelling the Myths of Frying with Olive Oil

Olive oil presents an opportunity to gain the same benefits from cooking, even in high temperature methods such as frying and sautéing.

It is fairly common knowledge these days that olive oil has certain health benefits and that using olive oil in vinaigrettes, emulsions and baked goods, drizzled on or dipped into, adds an extra layer of flavor and moisture when needed as well. But it is lesser known that olive oil presents an opportunity to gain the same benefits from stove top cooking, in high temperature methods such as frying and sautéing.
See more: 10 Things You Need to Know About Olive Oil
I know what you are thinking, frying and healthy? No such thing! But the truth is that by using extra virgin olive oil you can have both.

Although pan frying, deep frying, stir frying and sautéing are different stove top methods, they all have one thing in common: the temperature of the cooking oil. The object of these cooking methods is to cook the outside of the food quickly, creating a crispy exterior, while at the same time allowing the heat from the oil to penetrate all the way through. In order to accomplish this, the oil must reach a temperature of 350 to 370 degrees before introducing the food.

Myth number one: The smoking point of olive oil is too low for frying.

Some cooking oils and fats will reach what is referred to as the smoking point before reaching temperatures required for a good fry. The smoking point is the temperature at which a chemical change takes place resulting in undesirable smoke and flavor. Olive oil is not one of them. The smoking point of extra virgin olive oil is somewhere between 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. So, it appears that the smoking point of olive oil is well above the temperature required.

Myth number two: Frying temperatures will change olive oil from a ‘good oil’ to a ‘bad oil.’

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.

Myth number three: Fried foods absorb cooking oil, making you fat.

Properly fried food will absorb much less cooking oil if the temperature of the oil is hot enough before food is introduced. Otherwise, the food will indeed soak up the oil, producing a soggy, flaccid product. You know, like those oil soaked fries you had last week from your favorite fast food chain.

Not only can you fry with extra virgin olive oil, but you should. Frying with EVOO not only satisfies our desire for Southern-fried comfort foods, Asian stir fry, Mexican fajitas and Italian veal piccata, but it does all of that in addition to fulfilling our nutritional requirements for a healthy dietary fat as well.

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This article was last updated July 27, 2015 - 3:01 PM (GMT-5)

  • http://www.facebook.com/lauralee.hensley Lauralee Hensley

    Glad I read this, because I was always told #2 on your fact list above.  Now I know better.

  • tatalamer@gmail.com

    wait a second…….it has nothing to do with good or bad….sat, unsat
    olive oil is one of the healthiest oils but this title does not extend to cooking. Olive oil is primarily a monounsaturated fat, which means it has one double bond in its fatty acid structure. Although a monounsaturated fat is inherently more stable than a polyunsaturated fat, the overabundance of oleic acid in olive oil creates an imbalance that has been associated with increased risk for breast cancer and heart disease.

    However, olive oil is a smart fat to include in your diet in a non-heated form, such as in a salad dressing. By heating virgin olive oil to over 200 to 250 degrees, you are runningthe risk of creating an oxidized oil that can do your body more harm than good.

    As the oil is heated and mixed with oxygen, it goes rancid. Rancid oil is oxidized oil and should NOT be consumed—it leads directly to vascular disease.

    • Mrs. K

      This is exactly what I have read, the oil oxidizes when heated and should NOT be consumed. This article is very disappointing coming Olive Oil Times.

    • Sandra Tonti Chidester

      Seriously? Oil does not turn rancid that quickly! And – how much fried food are you eating for all of this to be a problem? Try adding veggies, salads and grains to your diet. This over analyzing of ingredients and cooking has produced the most obese culture ever.

    • Angela Bell

      It has everything to do with good or bad. The myth is frying temperatures will change olive oil from a good oil to a bad oil. The misconception is that heat changes the chemical composition of olive oil in such a way that it becomes a saturated or trans fat. That is not the case.

      It is true that all cooking oils (including olive oil) will eventually oxidize and result in rancidity with repeated use at very high temperatures such as deep frying for restaurant service. But studies have shown that olive oil is more resistant to oxidation than other cooking oils. Furthermore, it is unlikely that a home cook would use the oil more than once for either pan or deep frying since frying usually results in some undesirable food particles being left behind.

      Although the article does not address oleic acid specifically, the benefits of oleic acid (55 to 83% of olive oil) have been documented in studies to include reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering blood pressure and preventing breast cancer.



      Anti-Cancer Targeting Telomerase Inhibitors: β-Rubromycin and Oleic Acid.

      Mizushina Y, Takeuchi T, Sugawara F, Yoshida H.

      Laboratory of Food & Nutritional Sciences, Department of Nutritional Science, Kobe-Gakuin University, Nishi-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 651-2180, Japan. mizushin@nutr.kobegakuin.ac.jp.


      Saturated fatty acid-induced apoptosis in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. A role for cardiolipin.

      Hardy S, El-Assaad W, Przybytkowski E, Joly E, Prentki M, Langelier Y.

      Molecular Nutrition Unit, Centre de Recherche du Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, and the Institut du Cancer de Montréal, Université de Montréal, Québec H2L 4M1, Canada.


      Olive oil biophenols and women’s health.

      Fistonić I, Situm M, Bulat V, Harapin M, Fistonić N, Verbanac D.

      Gynecology, Obstetrics and Menopause Clinic Preradovićeva 10, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia.


      Oleic acid inhibits stearic acid-induced inhibition of cell growth and pro-inflammatory responses in human aortic endothelial cells.

      Kevin A. Harvey,* Candace L. Walker,* Zhidong Xu,* Phillip Whitley,* Thomas M. Pavlina,† Mary Hise,† Gary P. Zaloga,†and Rafat A. Siddiqui1,*§


      Oleic acid content is responsible for the reduction in blood pressure induced by olive oil.

      S. Terés,* G. Barceló-Coblijn,* M. Benet,* R. Álvarez,* R. Bressani,† J. E. Halver,‡§ and P. V. Escribá*§


      Chemistry of deep-fat frying oils.

      Choe E, Min DB.

      Dept. of Food and Nutrition, Inha Univ., Incheon, Korea.

      Olive Oil from the Tree to the Table -Second edition 1998, Dr. A. Kiritsakis

      Frying Food in Olive Oil, Gregorio Varela, Professor of Nutrition, Madrid University

      • OliveChirper

        You say that “olive oil is more resistant to oxidation than other cooking oils”, which is true — but it doesn’t mean, as your lead paragraph indicates, “that by using extra virgin olive oil you can have both [frying and healthy]”. It only means that you can have less unhealthy fat by frying in olive oil (especially high-oleic, high-polyphenol oils) than you do by frying in other oils. Any oil generates toxic reactive products upon frying, including lipid hydroperoxides, aldehydes, and a range of short-chain compounds attached to the glyceridic backbone such as 9-oxononanoic acid, which imposes substantial oxidative stress in the liver. And yes, prolonged or repeated frying in olive oil does generate trans-fatty acids, although far less than is found in partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils. Heating extra-virgin olive oil also depletes it of its health-giving polyphenols and other antioxidants.

        The most healthy thing is to cook a dish without fat (through poaching, steaming, or “frying” in water), and then add olive oil in after it has cooled enough to eat. If someone insists on cooking with oil, high-oleic, high-phenolic EVOO is the least harmful choice — but one should use as little as possible and at as low a temperature as possible.

  • jj

    Some of what was mentioned in this article are questionable…. where is the source of information coming from? for example, smoke points, good vs. bad fats… and most importantly please explain why unsaturated oils are better to cook with especially considering the fact that exposing polyunsaturated fats to heat causes the carbon molecules to get damaged, therefore causing major damage in our bodies.

    You may defend this by saying i am ‘over analyzing’ it, however the reality is that most people do not eat good fats at all. I’m not saying olive oil is bad, everyone should be having olive oil every day! But we are living in a time and place where companies are NOT informing people truthfully but only want to sell and only come across as informative. Everything we eat in restaurants, food courts, etc… all mostly all damaged fats. And then we go into grocery stores and buy canola oil that is already damaged before it even hits the shelves.

    The LEAST we can do is eat a healthy and undamaged oil at home because that small amount does make a difference.

    I really do not recommend frying or sauteing food in any polyunsaturated oils. Please do your own research and find the truth.

  • Flora

    Well… all I know about olive oil (extra virgin) is this: Since having begun a daily routine of using it on salads, pouring it over baked potatoes instead of butter, frying eggs in it, drinking it with orange juice and apple cider vinegar, dipping whole grain breads in it, using it as a skin moisturizer… and etc., I’ve been feeling better than I ever have! I’ve lost about 20 pounds of weight, I don’t have to take statins anymore to combat cholesterol problems, my blood pressure has become normal again and my blood sugar is stable. Before I used it regularly, my health was poor. I nearly lost my life due to a 98% blockage in a carotid artery — underwent surgery, then had a stroke — and decided I’d never go through that again even though it’s been said to me that the other carotid artery was gonna need a clean out in a few years. I don’t think it will. After considerable research related to health benefits realized through the consumption of olive oil (and garlic, apple cider vinegar, plus a Mediterranean style diet) I decided to take a chance and dump all the pharmaceuticals (and their side effects) in favor of mother nature’s remedies. Based solely on my personal experience, olive oil is a wonder-drug in itself and I’ll never stop using it.