Can you fry in extra virgin olive oil?
Yes, extra virgin olive oil is a great choice for frying. In fact, it is one of the healthiest and tastiest oils you can use for cooking, and people in the Mediterranean have been frying with olive oil for centuries. Although extra virgin olive oil has a lower smoke point than canola oil or vegetable cooking oils, it can still be used for most types of cooking, including frying and deep-frying.
What is the ideal temperature for frying in extra virgin olive oil?
The ideal temperature for frying in extra virgin olive oil is around 160°C or 320°F. This guarantees that you fry at a high, but safe temperature, around 20 to 30 degrees below extra virgin olive’s smoke point.
The smoke point is the temperature at which the olive oil will stop shimmering and instead start to burn and create smoke. This has a negative effect on the flavor, and the food will taste burnt. Every extra virgin olive oil has its own specific smoke point, which depends on the olive oil quality. Nevertheless, most extra virgin olive oils tend to burn at around 190°C or 350°F.
Because of this, it’s essential to be careful with the temperature when you cook in extra virgin olive oil. For the best possible temperature control, I recommend using a fry/deep-fry thermometer while your olive oil heats up, and also during cooking.
The 3 factors to consider when frying with olive oil
Here is how to choose the best olive oil for cooking a particular dish:
- Flavor: Each EVOO has its own taste profile, and you may find that you enjoy differrent extra virgin olive oils for pan frying, and for salads or dressings.
- Smoke point: Extra virgin olive oils with a higher smoke point are perhaps a better option for sauteing. Although cooking the olive oil destroys some of its healthy ingredients, olive oil fast and phenols are actually considerably heat stable which makes extra virgin olive oil a healthier cooking option compared to less healthy vegetable oils (e.g. sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, corn oil, etc.).
- Price: Extra virgin olive oil can be expensive if you fry and then replace the oil. Unfortunately, each time you re use olive oil, you destroy some more of its health promoting properties. If you are loooking to fry in extra virgin olive oil in a cost-effective way, I recommend using regular extra virgin olive oil (instead of polyphenol-rich EVOO and other premium olive oils). This way you can replace it more often after frying. Nevertheless, if you are looking for the highest quality olive oil for your diet, I wouldn’t use refined olive oil, regular olive oil, or other oils.
How to fry in extra virgin olive oil
- Learn about the smoke point of the olive oil you’ll be using. If you can’t find this information, you can assume that the smoke poin is around 190°C or 350°F, and you can safely fry at around 160°C or 320°F.
- Decide how much olive oil you’ll need. Frying in extra virgin olive oil is best for vegetables, french fries, sweet potato fries, meats, and fish that cook relatively quickly. Unless you’re frying large chunks of food, I’d recommend to start with enough olive oil to cover the surface of your pan.
- Preheat your olive oil slowly for better temperature control. Use a fry or infrared thermometer to monitor the temperature of your extra virgin olive oil until it reaches the desired temperature.
- Continue measuring the temperature of the olive oil after you add the food in the pan, and while it cooks.
- Once the food is ready, remove it from the frying pan with a skimmer allowing the excess olive oil to drain. Before serving, you can also place the food on a tower to soak any remaining olive oil.
How to keep track of your EVOO’s temperature when frying
Extra virgin olive oil is an excellent choice for frying but you need to be mindful of its smoke point. The same is true when cooking with any vegetable oil or butter, but extra virgin olive oil has a lower smoke point than vegetable oils, around 190°C or 350°F. Heating extra virgin olive oil above its smoke point will leave a burnt aftertaste on the food, and destroy many of its healthy fats and polyphenols.
That’s why it’s so important to always check your olive oil’s temperature, both when you pre-heat the olive oil in the pan before cooking, and while you cook. There are a few different options that we’d recommend for this, such as a good infrared thermometer.
Frequently asked questions
Can you fry in polyphenol-rich olive oil?
Absolutely! You can fry food in polyphenol-rich olive oil as long as you keep the temperature below its smoke point. For most extra virgin olive oils the perfect frying temperature is around 160°C or 320°F.
Can you deep fry in extra virgin olive oil?
Yes, you can deep fry food in extra virgin olive oil. The ideal frying temperature at around 160°C or 320°F is high enough for deep frying in extra virgin olive oil, although it’s more expensive compared to less healthy vegetable or canola oil.
Is cooking with olive oil carcinogenic?
No, cooking or frying in olive oil is not carcinogenic. On the contrary, extra virgin olive oil is an indispensable part of the Mediterranean diet. It has health-promoting benefits and demonstrates anti-cancer properties. Moreover, the healthy monosaturated fats and olive oil polyphenols are rather heat-stable. That being said, heating your extra virgin olive oil above its smoke point while cooking or frying will burn it. Burnt olive oil, like most burnt foods, may contain carcinogenic compounds. For best temperature control while frying in extra virgin olive oil I recommend using a fry or infrared thermometer.
Olive oil is a healthier alternative to other oils when frying. It’s also very versatile, and you can even use extra virgin olive oil for deep frying. Because it has a lower smoke point than other oils, it’s important to be careful not to exceed it, as this will result in burning the oil and leaving a burnt aftertaste on your food.