Extra Virgin is often used in its raw form and commonly misconstrued as a poor choice for cooking. This is because it’s flavor will dissipate somewhat when heat is applied and it has a lower smoke point than refined olive oil. However, the smoke point of high quality EVOO is much higher than conventionally thought. Our EVOOs typically have a smoke point of 420-430 degrees. America’s Test Kitchen reports 410 degrees as the smoke point while Milk Street found it to be as high as 446 degrees. In general, extra virgin olive oil is a good choice for cooking over low and medium to medium-high temperatures. It’s especially good for sauteeing and roasting. But of course, the complex flavors and health benefits of extra virgin olive oil can be most fully enjoyed in its fresh, raw form as a salad dressing, finished oil, dip, or whatever else your heart desires!
Can You Cook With Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
The smoke point is a term used to describe the temperature at which you’ll see a bluish smoke rising continuously from the oil. (Note that extra virgin olive oil is a natural product and so contains a little water. This means that when you heat it in the pan you’ll often see steam rising well before the oil reaches its smoke point – don’t confuse this and think you are damaging the oil.) Heating the oil above its smoke point increases the likelihood of oxidative damage and the creation of potentially harmful compounds.
Since polyunsaturated fats have lots of double bonds these fats are the most fragile and prone to damage. In contrast, saturated fats with no double bonds are extremely stable, while monounsaturated fats with only double bond are also highly resistant to oxidative damage.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Why we should cook with extra virgin olive oil
Several good studies have confirmed the stability of extra virgin olive oil during cooking. Importantly these studies have really pushed the boat out to test the point at which various oils will break down. They repeatedly heat the oils, heat them for long periods of time and take them up to extremely high temperatures.
These conditions would almost never happen in home cooking so the fact that extra virgin olive oil stands up consistently well in these tests really does confirm the safety of using the oil at home. The same is not true of oils high in polyunsaturated fats such as sunflower or generic ‘vegetable’ oil.
Plus we have studies showing that when we cook veggies in extra virgin olive oil, the overall level of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds rises significantly. So we get a double whammy benefit of the good fats present and a greater availability of protective compounds.
Make sure you choose the right olive oil
Extra Virgin Olive oil and Virgin olive oil are the best choices for health benefits as products called olive oil only contain about 10% or virgin olive oil. The best way to incorporate olive oil in your diet is over salads, drizzling over steamed vegetables. There is absolutely no reason why you cannot change your frying oil to olive oil; it changes the flavour of your fried egg to absolutely delicious. Never forget the little black olive, add it to your salads or even sneak some directly out of the container, you will feel and look great.