Olive oil is considered the healthiest cooking oil available in the market. It forms the backbone of the Mediterranean Diet, which for many recent years, including this year, has been voted the healthiest diet in the world. From cooking to salad dressings, olive oil is a staple ingredient in most kitchens worldwide.
However, with the popularity of high-heat cooking methods such as stir-frying and deep-fat-frying, questions about the smoke point of olive oil have arisen.
The sections below discuss the importance of knowing a cooking oil’s smoke point and how it is relevant to the effectiveness of olive oil.
The smoke point of an oil is a critical factor to consider when cooking, especially when using high-heat cooking methods. When oil is heated beyond its smoke point, it starts to break down, and harmful chemicals are released.
Chemicals like acrolein can cause respiratory problems and eye irritation—among other health issues. Heating any oil beyond its smoke point can cause the oil to become rancid, which can lead to a rancid taste in food and the destruction of the oil’s nutritional value.
Choosing the oil with the right smoke point for high-heat cooking methods is essential to maintain both the quality of the food and the health of the consumer.
The quality of the oil affects the olive oil’s smoke point. Good extra virgin olive oil, which is the highest quality olive oil, has a smoke point of around 200°C to 215C. The vast majority of home-cooking processes such as stovetop cooking (sauces, soups, stews, shallow frying and sauteing of veggies, fish or eggs etc.) as well as oven baking of potatoes, vegetables, chicken, beef, pizzas, lasagnas, focaccias, breads, cakes etc.) takes place at these temperatures or less.
Extra virgin olive oil that has been filtered of solids such as olive fruit skin and pulp has a higher smoke point than unfiltered olive oil that still has solids suspended in it as well as a sediment of solids. It is the solids that ignite and smoke first at higher temperatures, not the actual oil itself. Filtering olive oil costs the producers money, so many producers avoid the process to save on cost. Filtered high quality olive oil is however the much better quality olive oil to cook with.
Filtered olive oil is never to be confused with refined olive oil.
Filtering is a mechanical process where impurities are sieved out of the olive oil, while maintaining the oil’s high nutritional value, freshness and pleasing taste and aroma profile.
Refining is a chemical process where an olive oil that is already of lower quality or already past its best before use time, to rid it of unpleasant odours and tastes. The refining process produces oils that are relatively bland in taste and less nutritionally valuable than natural, unrefined extra virgin olive oil. Even refined olive oil is healthier than most other cooking oils, which in their overwhelming majority are refined from the very beginning of their production. Refined olive oil has a lower nutritional value profile than unrefined extra virgin olive oil.
The advantage of refined olive oil has a smoke point that is higher, around 240 degrees Celsius. If you have to deep-fat-fry or use other high-heat cooking methods it is recommended to use refined olive oil.
Due to the relatively high smoke point of olive oil—of around 200°C to 215°C—cooking at home has no effect on it. See, when determining a cooking oil’s suitability for cooking, the smoke point is not the most crucial consideration.
The most important factor is oxidative stability, which refers to how well a cooking oil resists degrading when heated. According toresearch, extra virgin olive oil outperforms cooking oils with higher smoke points in terms of stability under heat and the generation of polar compounds.
This is because the phenols and antioxidants in extra virgin olive oil keep it from decomposing when heated. Since hob cooking often doesn’t reach 200ºC, it is unlikely that you will reach the smoke point of olive oil while cooking at home.
Olive oil is widely used in various dishes worldwide. It is best suited for low- to medium-heat cooking methods such as sautéing, baking, and roasting. These cooking methods allow the oil to maintain its nutritional value and preserve its wonderful flavour.
It is also an excellent ingredient for salad dressings, dips, and spreads. Chefs and amateur cooks alike love it because it gives food a unique flavour and scent.
However, when using olive oil for high-heat cooking methods, such as deep-frying, it is recommended to use refined olive oil. Refined olive oil is better suited to high-heat cooking methods since it has a greater smoke point than extra virgin olive oil.
Using refined olive oil for high-heat cooking methods will prevent the release of harmful fumes and ensure that the oil does not degrade.
To avoid the risk of smoke, it is essential to choose the right type of olive oil based on its smoke point and to monitor the heat during cooking. Other factors—such as the quality and storage of olive oil—can also affect its smoke point and flavour.
Therefore, the best practices for using olive oil in cooking should be followed. And you can always speak with a professional if you have any questions.
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