Cooking With Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is a flavorful and healthy alternative to other types of cooking fats. Discover The best olive oils for cooking below.
By Daniel Dawson
Jan. 6, 2022 11:25 UTC

Extra vir­gin olive oil (EVOO, for short) should be an essen­tial ingre­di­ent in every cook’s kitchen.

Whether bak­ing, sauteéing, grilling, dress­ing or mak­ing soups and stews, adding EVOO to the mix enhances the fla­vor of the food and endows it with health ben­e­fits the vast major­ity of other cook­ing oils sim­ply can’t pro­vide.

See Also:Olive Oil Basics

Below, we’ve detailed a few of the ways in which to best use extra vir­gin olive oil in your cook­ing reper­toire and how you can find the best olive oils for cook­ing.

Is cook­ing with extra vir­gin olive oil safe?

The short answer to this is, yes, of course. The rea­son it needs to be addressed right away is because there is plenty of mis­in­for­ma­tion about the smoke point of olive oil. The all-too-com­mon mis­con­cep­tion is that the smoke point is too low for every­day uses.

However, researchers have shown that extra vir­gin olive oil can be heated for short peri­ods of time at tem­per­a­tures as high as 240 ºC (475 ºF) and can remain at tem­per­a­tures as high as 180 ºC (355 ºF) for up to six hours with­out dena­tur­ing.

See Also:Cooking with Olive Oil

Both of these mea­sures demon­strate that EVOO can be safely used for the vast major­ity of domes­tic cook­ing needs.

Further research has also demon­strated that many of EVOO’s health­ful prop­er­ties, includ­ing polyphe­nols and antiox­i­dants, remain intact, even after being heated.

Now that this has been cleared up, it is time to get into the kitchen and get cook­ing.

Baking with extra vir­gin olive oil

People have been bak­ing with extra vir­gin olive oil for gen­er­a­tions. Swapping out tra­di­tional ani­mal fats for EVOO is a great way to make your baked goods slightly more healthy while adding an extra layer of fla­vor.

Making the change will add antiox­i­dants and vit­a­min E to your breads, muffins, cakes and crum­pets. It will also cut down on sat­u­rated fats.

Generally speak­ing, you want to use a del­i­cate EVOO for bak­ing to accen­tu­ate the fla­vor with­out over­pow­er­ing it. Don’t use an EVOO you wouldn’t want to dip bread in.

See Also:Spanish Baker Launches Olive Oil-Based Pastry Range

If you are an EVOO fanatic, how­ever, a robust oil can give that baked cre­ation a green fruity fla­vor. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is cer­tainly worth try­ing in a small batch of cake or brown­ies at least once.

However, there are a few instances in which it is not wise to sub­sti­tute EVOO for but­ter. A recipe that calls for liq­uid but­ter or cream­ing but­ter is count­ing on them for tex­ture. Adding EVOO will change this.

Any other time these fats are men­tioned, how­ever, try swap­ping them out for extra vir­gin olive oil: Three table­spoons of EVOO for a quar­ter-cup of but­ter.

Sauteéing and fry­ing with EVOO

As long as you are not deep fry­ing (plan on using refined oils for this), extra vir­gin olive oil is per­fect to fry and sauteé a range of dishes.

Delicate extra vir­gin olive oils have the light­est fla­vors and are best for sautéing. Their mild taste will com­ple­ment the fla­vor of the dish with­out over­pow­er­ing it.

See Also:Dispelling the Myths of Frying With Olive Oil

When sautéing with extra vir­gin olive oil, it is best to use a small fry­ing pan. This allows you to pool more EVOO at the bot­tom with­out hav­ing to use a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the bot­tle. Using a larger pan will mean you need to use more EVOO to get the same desired end result.

Grilling with extra vir­gin olive oil

Just like sauteéing and fry­ing, extra vir­gin olive oil is excel­lent for grilling as well. Not only does using EVOO add addi­tional lay­ers of fla­vor to what­ever you are grilling, it may also make grilling safer and health­ier.

According to American Institute for Cancer Research, grilling at high tem­per­a­tures may release can­cer-caus­ing chem­i­cals, known as het­e­ro­cyclic amines (HCAs).

See Also:Pairing Extra Virgin Olive Oils with Fish and Meat Dishes

However, mar­i­nat­ing the meat in extra vir­gin olive oil cre­ates a bar­rier between the meat and heat, help­ing to pre­vent the for­ma­tion of HCAs. The numer­ous phe­no­lic com­pounds in EVOO also help sequester some of these chem­i­cals.

Away from the health­ful rea­sons to do so, there are also fla­vor­ful rea­sons to grill with extra vir­gin olive oil.

Just be sure to pour the EVOO and rub it in to cover the meat or veg­gie is cov­ered as pos­si­ble before plac­ing on the grill.

Using EVOO for soups, stews and dress­ing

While EVOO is per­fectly suited for all kinds of cook­ing, it is best known as a fin­ish­ing oil.

Any EVOO – from del­i­cate to robust – can be driz­zled over sal­ads and just about every­thing else.

See Also:Olive Brine, a Secret Kitchen Ingredient

Generally speak­ing, the type of oil you want to add to the salad depends on the veg­eta­bles. Delicate oils are best for mild fla­vors, such as baby let­tuce, while robust oils are per­fect for stronger fla­vors, such as kale. Add medium oils to some­thing like a Caesar salad for a nice fla­vor kick.

Robust olive oils are nice for adding some addi­tional fla­vor to soups, stews and red sauces.

Where can I find the best extra vir­gin olive oils for cook­ing?

The retail finder on the Official Guide to the World’s Best Olive Oils makes it easy to find award-win­ning extra vir­gin olive oils near you or through online retail­ers.


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