Food & Cooking

Dispelling the Myths of Frying with Olive Oil

You can enjoy the health benefits of cooking with olive oil, even with high-temperature methods such as frying and sautéing.
Nov. 7, 2012
Angela Bell

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Most peo­ple know that olive oil has many health ben­e­fits and that using it in low-heat cook­ing and for fin­ish­ing enhances the fla­vors in foods, but what about high-heat cook­ing like fry­ing?

A recent study revealed that fry­ing veg­eta­bles in extra vir­gin olive oil was actu­ally health­ier than boil­ing them. It makes sense: Not only do you get to keep the nutri­ents in the veg­gies instead of pour­ing them down the drain, but the olive oil helps your body absorb them (not to men­tion pack­ing quite a few help­ful com­po­nents of its own, like can­cer-fight­ing polyphe­nols).

(If you’re look­ing for recipes with olive oil, check out our recipes sec­tion.)

So let’s dis­pel some of the long-held mis­con­cep­tions about using olive oil in high-tem­per­a­ture meth­ods such as fry­ing and sautéing.

Although pan-fry­ing, deep-fry­ing, stir-fry­ing and sautéing are dif­fer­ent stove­top meth­ods, they all have one thing in com­mon: the tem­per­a­ture of the cook­ing oil.

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See Also: Find the Best Olive Oils for Fried Foods

The object of these cook­ing meth­ods is to cook the out­side of the food quickly, cre­at­ing a crispy exte­rior, while 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°F (177°C) to 370°F (188°C) before intro­duc­ing the food.

Myth #1: 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°F (193°C) and 410°F (210°C), depend­ing on the impu­ri­ties and acid con­tent of the olive oil: the bet­ter the qual­ity, the higher the smok­ing point.

The smok­ing point of olive oil is well above the tem­per­a­ture required for all but the high­est-heat cook­ing.

Myth #2: 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 #3: 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.

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