Is Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil A Good Cooking Oil?

There is a huge debate around which the best cooking oils. Heat causes oxidation of the oil and consequently the release of toxins, so what is the best option when our recipe requires a cooking fat?

As everything in life, there is not a good-for-all answer. It depends on several factors:

  • the cooking method
  • the result you are after
  • having or not a healthy approach to your recipe.
However it’s worth knowing a little bit more about different types of fats to understand what the best is to cook.

Fats can be liquid or solid at room temperature:

  • saturated fats are solid. Butter, lard, margarine and coconut oil are an example. Generally, saturated fats are not considered healthy fats for their chemical composition but they are more resistant to heat thus to oxidation (please note that butter becomes very resistant to heat after clarification) so some of them have been and still are largely used as cooking oils / fats
  • Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. In this category you will find the best known vegetable oils (some good to cook with, some not much). Unsaturated fats can be polyunsaturated or monounsaturated. Polyunsaturated fats are the least resistant to heat however, being very liquid, they stick less to the food producing a very “light” sensation to the taste, unlike butter and lard, especially when you use them in deep frying (battered food). The best known example is tempura, fried in soya oil, which is an excellent oil in terms of sensorial experience, but not that much under the oxidation point of view.
A good compromise is our beloved extra virgin olive oil: it is liquid enough to give a lighter sensation than butter and lard when used in deep frying (but please remember to absorb the excess oil placing the fried food on a few layers of paper towel) and it is mainly made of monounsaturated fats which are more resistant to heat than polyunsaturated. Just like peanut oil and sunflower oil high oleic. But the real trick up extra virgin olive oil’s sleeve is the massive presence of antioxidants. Yes you got it, ANTI - OXIDANTS, against oxidation which, as I mentioned before, is one of the consequences of heat and causes the formation of toxins. The polyphenols resist more than 180°, which is considered the ideal temperature for perfect deep frying, and they are destroyed gradually while the food is cooking thus protecting it from oxidation. So a good quality organic extra virgin olive oil is a great cooking oil.

A big question mark about extra virgin olive oil is its smoke point. Usually it is said to be around 160° but this is only true for low quality extra virgin olive oils. High quality EVVOs’ smoke point  ranges from 180° to 210° which makes them a great choice for many cooking methods (shop here your favorite organic extra virgin olive oil for cooking).

See below the temperature of different cooking methods so you’ll be able to decide which oil / fat is most suitable:

  • Boiling around 100°
  • Stewing up to 100°
  • Deep frying shouldn’t go over 180° for top quality results, but it can if not checked.
  • Pan frying around 180°
  • Stir fry between 180° and  200°
  • Baking between 130° and 230°
  • Roasting between 180° and 220°
  • Grilling between 190° and 240°

As you can see many of them are under 180°. For grilling and roasting you can use saturated fats as cooking oils / fats if not already contained in the food. Or, you can use the trick of adding extra virgin olive oil or any other oil you like, just at the very end of the cooking process. For baking, it really depends on the temperature and the recipe but most baking recipes require 180° so either clarified butter or extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil can do the job.

Usually our choice is extra virgin olive which is healthier and vegan friendly but we also support the idea of “Carnival” every now and then, that is, breaking the rules of healthy eating. It’s pleasant, it’s relaxing, it’s an experience and a healthy body knows how to deal with a bit of delicious unhealthy food every now and then!

Happy eating, happy life!

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