Can I cook with Raw Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

August 10, 2014

Yes, you can safely cook with Raw Extra Virgin Olive Oil!

By Vitina Feo.

 

For over 5,000 years human kind have been using Raw Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) as the primary oil to fry, bake and cook. How is it that in the last 5 years, all of a sudden, EVOO is no longer a stable oil to do so? You need to ask yourself, "Is there a marketing reason for this?". Let's find out what the experts are actually saying.

A recent article in Health Impact News1 stated what you might have long suspected about using olive oil for cooking. The author, John P. Thomas said,

"One of the most common myths perpetrated on the Internet is that while olive oil is healthy, it should not be used for cooking or frying. The belief is that somehow, the high heat used in cooking or frying makes olive oil unhealthy. However, this belief is not consistent with historical uses of olive oil in Mediterranean cuisine, nor with a wide body of published research."
He continued,
"Olive oil is not only safe for cooking, but it is recommended by scientists and olive oil experts for high temperature frying! The notion that extra virgin olive oil should never be heated or used for cooking is not supported by research."

In addition, Dr. Mary Enig, who authored Know Your Fats, and one of the most knowledgeable experts on oils and healthy fats, says,

"A unique blend of oils that can be used for sautéing and light frying is one that is a blend of coconut oil (one-third), sesame oil (one-third), and olive oil (one-third). It is easy to make up in small portions ranging from a single tablespoon measure (one teaspoon of each oil) to a pint and a half size (one cup of each oil)."**

** (I, personally do not agree with using sesame oil at all. Yet I chose to quote her comment for your benefit and fairness)

These experts are saying what many of their peers have said or supported for several years. The high levels of antioxidants found in the highest quality of olive oil, usually classified as RAW EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, are what make olive oil heat-stable and an excellent choice for cooking and frying.

So how do we debunk the myth that you should not fry with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)?

Look at the scientific data if you care to, although it is a bit technical and you may get lost in the jargon. If you want to read the science, see three recent studies cited below, two reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, and one in the journal, Food Chemistry, which tested the effects of continuously heating virgin olive oil for 36 hours to measure how the oil degraded. 3,4,5

You can easily understand what the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) said about the maximum temperature that you can use when cooking with virgin olive oil:

"When heated, olive oil is the most stable fat, which means it stands up well to high frying temperatures. Its high smoke point (410ºF) 210ºC is well above the ideal temperature for frying food (356ºF) 180ºC. The digestibility of olive oil is not affected when it is heated, even when it is re-used several times for frying."
6

Virgin and extra virgin olive oil can thus safely be used for cooking and deep-frying, and the oil can even be reused. This type of oil does not degrade seriously with normal household cooking. However, because olive oil is sensitive to sunlight, it is better when it is packed in tinted bottles.

For more questions about cooking with olive oil, you may want to check Richard Gawel, who also recommends the use of olive oil for cooking. He is an internationally known expert on olive oil. See his Frequently Asked Questions about EVOO at: http://www.aromoadictionary.com/oliveoilfaq.html

References:
  • 1. John P. Thomas, "Myth Buster: Olive Oil is One of the Safest Oils for Frying and Cooking," Health Impact News Daily. May 26, 2014. (see link: http://healthimpactnews.com/2014/myth-buster-olive-oil-is-one-of-the-safest-oils-for-frying-and-cooking/).
  • 2. Know Your Fats, Mary Enig, Ph.D., 2010, p. 197 ff.
  • 3. "How heating affects extra virgin olive oil quality indexes and chemical composition," Y. Allouche, A. Jiménez, J. J. Gaforio, M. Uceda, G. Beltrán, J Agric Food Chem, 2007 Nov 14;55(23):9646-54. Epub 2007 Oct 13, PMID: 17935291
  • 4."The antioxidants in oils heated at frying temperature, whether natural or added, could protect against postprandial oxidative stress in obese people." Perez-Herrera A, Food Chem. 2013 Jun 15; 138 (4):2250-9
  • 5."Influence of simulated deep- frying on the antioxidant fraction of vegetable oils after enrichment with extracts from olive oil pomace." Orozco-Solano MI, Priego-Capote F, Luque de Castro MD. J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Sep 28;59(18):9806-14
  • 6. "Frying with Olive Oil," International Olive Oil Council, http://www.internationaloliveoil.org/estaticos/view/85-frying-with-olive-oil,"
  • 7. "Extra Virgin Olive Oil Frequently Asked Questions," Richard Gawel, 2009. http://www.aromadictionary.com/oliveoilfaq.htm