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Cooking With Extra Virgin Olive Oil

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hi Gang,

I have often heard it said that one shouldn't cook with high heat using EVOO. On the other hand, numerous recipes call for heating the EVOO until shimmering, or even smoking, and the Food Network "stars" seem to use EVOO for everything except polishing their shoes. So, what's the story here? Is there really a problem using EVOO with high heat, and, if so, what's the problem.

Thanks,

Shel
post #2 of 13
Really good EVOO has flavor. Really good EVOO is expensive. IMHO ;) really good EVOO should be used as a condiment, just added to dishes at the end, as one would mount a sauce with whole butter, or sprinkled on like a little sea salt or fresh lemon juice.

BUT: EVOO has cachet. And so people who don't know any better (and some who should :rolleyes: ) think that if EVOO is good for adding flavor, it's got to be good for cooking. They are wrong. But that's just my opinion. :p

The problem with any cooking fat is that the lower its smoke point, the more likely it is to start to burn as you use very high heat. In general, unrefined oils have lower smoke points than refined oils. So while a usual smoke point for olive oil is around 410 degrees F, EVOO (less processed) will have a lower smoke point. And after a while of exposure to high heat, the chemical composition of the oil can change from something relatively healthy to something unhealthy.

Also, high heat cooking can change the flavor of the oil, which kind of defeats the purpose of using a flavorful oil -- and wastes all that money you paid for it.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #3 of 13
It's not so much that one mustn't but that it's wasteful and not as healthy of a choice.

EVOO has a low smoke point so it won't get that hot before smoking. Remember that when oils smoke, you're creating unsafe chemicals in the oil. So for searing or high heat saute, you're not using an oil good for that. Further, a flavorful oil such as EVOO, the particular flavor compounds are not heat tolerant so the good flavor is lost as well. A less expensive oil with a higher smoke point works better and costs less.

A further refined olive oil such as pure will have a higher smoke point and work better for higher heat cooking while still maintaining olive oils' healthful fat characteristics.

For a low heat dish evoo has some characteristics that will persist.

The stars of the Food Network generally have a low reputation here. You too can join the members of Cheftalk in frowning on Food Network Chefs' culinary missteps.

Phil
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #4 of 13
The most widely used cooking oil in the industry is a blend of 10-20% olive oil and 80-90% canola oil. It's cheaper and has a higher smoke point.
post #5 of 13

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I am half Italian, so extra virgin olive oil is running through my veins.

I have always used it for a lot of things, but not for cooking except in emergencies, as I've noticed that it smokes very easily. I was not aware that this creates poisonous chemicals!

Does anyone have any more information on what the exact chemical changes are?
post #6 of 13
I totally agree with everyone here. Low smoke point and a loss of all of its flavor nuances make EVOO a poor choice for cooking. A lower grade olive or, as suggested an olive oil/canola oil blend makes a better choice for cooking. Save the EVOO for finishing foods, making vinaigrettes, using a condiment, etc.
post #7 of 13
I cannot STAND canola oil! To me it smells fishy and imparts that flavor to food it's cooked in. Fortunately I'm not in Barbecue's shoes- I can use soy products.

But how about other oils, such as sunflower or corn oil? I love peanut oil but worry about serving it to people. My grandmother used it though, along with corn oil (which she called Mazola no matter which brand she bought :D).

Can you sautee in pomace olive oil?
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post #8 of 13
The rule of thumb is that olive oil has a smoking point of 410 degrees Fahrenheit. That tolerance for temperature would make it eligible for deep frying. But the smoking temperature of olive oils will vary depending on their purity. A beautifully clear EVOO (just to mimic a popular cooking show hostess) will withstand higher temperatures when it's fresh than it will after it's been used a few times. A lesser grade of olive oil will smoke at a slightly lower temperature than a quality oil. IMHO the jury is still out on the dangers of chemicals created when a cooking oil is heated to the smoking point. Not that some of the chemicals aren't dangerous, they certainly are. But I have to wonder if the small amount of them we might consume in a typical meal is really significant.
All cooking oils have a smoking point and, when it reaches that point, it has also reached its flash point so an oil fire on the stove is more likely to occur using oils with the lower smoking point.
I rarely use olive oil for cooking. For frying, especially deep frying, I use Safflower oil. It has a much higher smoking point, is much less expensive and I haven't found that it imparts any undesirable flavor to the prepared food.
I do use olive oil but usually only as a finishing touch to an appropriate dish I've prepared.
post #9 of 13
two questions
One, what is canola oil? Is there a canola plant? is it some new-fangled concoction? we don;t have it here and i keep reading about it in american recipes.

two, i understood that extra virgin oil (of any seed, not just olive) is cold pressed. Therefore, it doesn;t need to be washed in chemicals to clear out the residue of the seed. So i always assumed that an extra virgin oil would be good for frying because not having chemical traces in it, it doesn;t deteriorate into these dangerous chemicals when heated to smoke point. Or am i mistaken?
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #10 of 13
Canola oil comes from the rapeseed plant. Can you see why the marketing departments re-named it?? :eek: Wikipedia has an interesting article on it; apparently there's some discussion as to whether it's really rapeseed or canola seed....

I don't care what you call it; I detest it!
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post #11 of 13
I got the impression that many southern Italians used extra virgin olive oil for cooking, especially for frying things. Olive oil in an unrefined form does have a low smoke point, which when burnt tastes horrible and isn't good for the health, but I guess they just try to fry at a slightly lower temperature.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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post #12 of 13
Wow, so much has been already said but I don't know where to start!

About the smoking point of EVOO, what I do know is that olive oil as well as canola oil are mono-unsaturated fats. Other vegetable oils are poly-unsaturated fats and butter or hydrogenated oils are saturated. Elementary chemistry teaches that in terms of stability to heating, saturated fats should be the most stable, then mono-unsaturated fats, and poly-unsaturated fats should be the least stable. Since smoking in an oil that is being heated signifies the beginning of thermal decomposition, one would then expect that poly-unsaturated fats should have a lower smoking point than canola and olive oil, which in turn should have a lower smoking point than butter or hydrogenated fats. Contrary to this expectation, a lot has been said in a lot of places about olive oil having a lower smoking point than some poly-unsaturated fats. To me this stretches the limits of credibility considerably. However, for the sake of argument, I would assume that it has some basis.

Even assuming that olive oil has a lower smoking point than, let's say, safflower oil, the only valid implication I see is that one may not want to fry anything in olive oil for health reasons strictly. However, frying and cooking in olive oil are two different matters. I can see no chance of the oil in a cooking pot containing several other ingredients and some water as well getting any chance whatsoever to reach smoking point. Therefore the notion that olive oil is unsuitable for cooking (as opposed to frying) is patently wrong.

Beyond smoking points, one must also consider matters of taste when it comes to cooking. For a lot of people, especially around the Mediterranean, the characteristic taste that olive oil imparts to food is synonymous with 'good taste' and that includes fried food as well. For the rest of the world, there could be a choice as to what oil to use when cooking or frying.

Regarding cost factors, for a lot of people around the Mediterranean, olive oil is either 'cheap' or 'free' because they produce it themselves. For a professional establishment, a cheaper vegetable oil may be a better choice for frying based on costs. However, no matter how important cost factors may be, I do sincerely hope that this choice is never pomace, which is, in my own opinion, unfit for human consumption.

Finally, the hazardous substances that are produced when oil in general reach their smoking point are called free radicals. They are very reactive and do cause chain reactions in the human body which are responsible for the aging process as well as the onset of cancer. The body has ways of counteracting them and some food supplements are also helpful in this way. Nevertheless, continual exposure to free radicals is likely to take its toll eventually. These free radicals are the reasons doctors advise against eating deep fried food. If health concerns are significant, as they may very well be, one should think more towards eliminating deep-fried foods from his/her diet rather than looking for the perfect oil to deep-fry in.

As a matter of curiosity, what happens if when deep-frying one adds the food to be fried to the heated oil BEFORE the latter reaches its smoking point? Shouldn't the mass and consistency of the deep-frying food act as a barrier to the frying oil reaching smoking point?
post #13 of 13
Canola oil was "invented" in Canada and hence its name. This oil comes from "specially cultured" rapeseed plant seeds. In its original form, rapeseed is highly toxic due to a high content of euricic acid. The cultured stuff is supposed to be only 3-4%, but just take a look at the processing that the "cultured" stuff still has to go through, including the use of solvents like heptane and sometimes benzene. Benzene is highly carcinogenic.

I won't use canola oil for anything. I use exclusively "First Cold Pressed" EVOO. Frying and grilling isn't so good for you anyway, no matter what oil you're using. So I don't do much of it. But when I do I haven't had much problem with EVOO. I usually use Bertolli's. When I want a salad dressing, I buy very green "Real" Italian imported very expensive EVOO. Most of the known brands, like Bertolli, are imported from Italy, but the oil comes from Spain and other places. I don't care. It smells very fruity and delicious to me.

A fine place to find out more of the benefits of EVOO like the phyto-ingredients, anti-oxidants, and other good stuff try the North American Olive Oil Association.

doc
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