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This is the most common question I get as a small Kalamata olive oil producer and the truthful answer to a question – can you fry with extra virgin olive oil – absolutely yes!
One of 3 reasons why you should fry with extra virgin olive oil is deep Mediterranean kitchen traditions where olive oil has been used for cooking and frying for centuries. Secondly, with temperature control, you never exceed the smoking point of olive oil when frying. And finally, extra virgin olive oil has low amounts of polyunsaturated fats and has high levels of polyphenols, making it one of the healthiest oils in which to fry foods.
It’s pretty obvious that many people who wrote articles about frying with olive oil have never personally used pure extra virgin olive oil, also known in a shot name – EVOO. They generalize olive oil as such, however, the higher grade olive oil is, the higher temperature you can fry with it. So in this article, I speak about top-quality extra virgin olive oil that is cold-pressed with no heat used and has different qualities than regular olive oil.
For more information on what is extra virgin olive oil read my article about the difference between extra virgin olive oil vs olive oil.
So let’s look into each of the 3 facts above more deeply and get familiar with 5 tips about successful frying with extra virgin olive oil. Also, I include a short myth-busting video to clarify facts and lies about frying with olive oil benefits.
- 1. Mediterranean People Fry with Olive Oil for Centuries
- 2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil Safe to Fry
- 3. Benefits of Frying with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Deep-frying
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Stir-frying
- 5 Tips to Fry with Olive Oil Successfully
- Key Takeaways
1. Mediterranean People Fry with Olive Oil for Centuries
Let’s look into deeply rooted Mediterranean cuisine traditions. There is solid evidence that Greeks, Italians, Spanish, French, and other neighboring cultures have been frying with extra virgin olive oil for centuries and their Mediterranean diet has been proven one of the healthiest diets around the world.
Olive oil is a pure olive juice extracted from olive fruits and has been an essential fat in the Mediterranean diet. Mostly it is used as a seasoning ingredient in this diet, but also can be used for sautéing, frying, roasting, and other cooking methods.
2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil Safe to Fry
If you are looking for a more scientific explanation, the smoking point of an oil is a factor to consider. This is a point of oil temperature when the oil stops shimmering and ignites the oxidative process: the oil degenerates and accumulates free radicals and other toxic molecules.
The extra virgin olive oil smoking point is between 190 – 215 °C / 375 – 420 °F that is perfectly suited for most everyday cooking methods and safe to fry. Basically, you will never exceed 190°C/ 375°F when frying or sautéing.
No doubt, you probably heard that canola oil, sunflower oil, or rapeseed oil has a much higher smoking point, but there is no need to fry most of the foods you prepare at a higher temperature than 180°C / 356°F.
For example, frying onion or garlic you need low to medium temperature (120 – 170°C/ 248 – 338°F works well! ) otherwise they will get brown and burn. Also if you are preparing tomato sauce or sliced chicken with mushrooms the temperature should not exceed the olive oil smoking point.
|Cooking Method||Temperature in Celcius °C||Temperature in Fahrenheit °F|
|Deep-Frying||160°C -180°C||320°F – 356°F|
|Oven Baking||Below 200°C||Below 392°F|
|Stir-Frying||176°C – 205°C||348°F – 401°F|
|Olive Oil Smoke Point||190°C – 215°C||375°F – 420°F|
Extra virgin olive oil is absolutely safe to heat and fry because its smoking point is noticeably higher than the recommended temperature for frying food – which is 190°C / 375 ºF
Last but not least, extra virgin olive oil is the highest grade among oils and the higher quality olive oil is, the higher the smoking point it has. The highest quality olive oil can possibly reach up to 218°C / 425°F due to low acidity levels and higher levels of polyphenols and antioxidants.
There are many myths about frying with olive oil. For this reason, you should check out my myth-busting video:
3. Benefits of Frying with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is the highest grade among oils, has lots of nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants that bring lots of health benefits. Even when EVOO is used for frying, with higher temperature it brings pleasant flavor, and its beneficial elements and antioxidants levels remain within a healthy range.
By looking into the nutritional value of extra virgin olive oil, it has more than 70% of monounsaturated fats that are super healthy, relatively stable during deep frying. Polyunsaturated fats when overheated may break down into unhealthy elements called free radicals. Fortunately, olive oil contains low amounts of polyunsaturated fats and has high levels of polyphenols* which resist oxidation during prolonged heating, making it one of the healthiest oils in which to fry foods.
According to the study in ACTA Scientific Nutritional Health Journal, extra virgin olive oil was shown to be the oil that produced the lowest level of harmful compounds and oxidative byproducts than other cooking oils after being heated to temperatures higher than 205°C / 400°F.
Another scientific research showed that temperature degraded the polyphenols* of EVOO during the frying process, but the time of frying didn’t have an effect. No matter that polyphenol content decreased by 40% at 120 °C and 75% at 170 °C compared to raw extra virgin olive oil, the fried olive oil still meets the parameters of the EU’s health claim.
*Polyphenols are organic compounds packed with antioxidants and potential health benefits. For more information about polyphenol benefits in oil, read my article polyphenol-rich olive oil.
|Cooking Method||Temperature||Results Compared to Raw Olive Oil|
|Sautéing / Frying||120°C/ 248°F||Polyphenols decreased by 40%|
|Sautéing / Frying||170°C/ 338°F||Polyphenols decreased by 75%|
For flavor and nutrition, consider cooking with a quality extra virgin olive oil and sautéing over medium heat instead of deep-frying at a high temperature. In that case, oil keeps more antioxidants and polyphenols that provide health-protective benefits.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Deep-frying
Deep-frying requires much higher temperatures than pan-frying or sautéing. In order to deep-fry, the olive oil must reach a temperature that dehydrates the surface of food and quickly forms a crust but doesn’t cause to burn the food before it is cooked. Normally you need the olive oil temperature of 176°C / 350°F and 190°C / 375°F for deep-frying and this is lower than olive oil smoke point at 190°C / 375 ºF and above.
On the other hand, if the deep-frying temperature is at the borderline of extra virgin olive oil smoke point, there is a risk to diminish the minor components of olive oil such as polyphenols when overheated.
But then, why would you deep-fry with extra virgin olive oil, if the health benefits of traditional Mediterranean cuisine depend on the ways of cooking. The staple of the Mediterranean diet is a plant-based food seasoned with fresh extra virgin olive oil rather than preparing deep-frying meals.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Stir-frying
Normally stir-frying requires a higher cooking temperature than deep-frying and affects the quality of the food you’re cooking: reduces the nutritional value of oil and food in general.
So if you can’t regulate the temperature to be lower than 218°C / 425 ºF or need a much higher one while stir-frying specific products, then coconut oil, avocado oil, or animal fat is a healthier option for you. They do have a higher smoking point than olive oil and the oil won’t overheat and burn.
5 Tips to Fry with Olive Oil Successfully
If you want to use the most healthy oil for your cooking needs, here are a few items you should consider when frying with olive oil.
1. Temperature Control
Don’t overheat and fry your food with olive oil successfully using proper temperature control. To manage it, use a deep fryer with a built-in thermostat to keep the olive oil at 176°C / 350ºF during deep frying to avoid exceeding its smoke point and retain the healthy properties of olive oil such as polyphenols and antioxidants.
If you’re frying in a pan, pot, or wok, use a clip-on cooking thermometer to monitor how hot the olive oil gets. Frying foods below 176°C / 350ºF delivers a crisp crust without burning the outside.
EVOO is safe to use when frying, as long as you don’t go above the 190°C / 375 ºF range
2. Use Medium Heat
You should also consider the level of heat you’ll use when frying with olive oil. Quickly heating it with high heat in the very beginning will only burn the oil easily. Therefore, it’s essential to start with medium heat and let the oil naturally come to the right temperature. Use the frying thermometer to check if it’s ready for you to put the food in the pan.
3. Choose the Right Food to Fry
Another way to successfully fry with extra virgin olive oil is to pick smaller bites of food to cook, like thin slices of chicken or chicken tenders. Easy to fry food is also your best option to fry with olive oil to prevent the oil from overheating and retain most nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants.
4. Find the Best Brand
There are various brands of olive oil available in the market with different qualities. By looking into the scientific facts above, your wise choice should be high-quality best extra virgin olive oil. You can experiment and try various brands to find the best extra virgin olive oil for you, however, fr the best results, it should be cold-pressed, unfiltered, and last harvest olive oil.
Try to get from local farmers who produce olive oil and guarantee its quality rather than buying one from supermarkets due to the high rate of fraudulent products sold in the olive oil market. It may be more expensive, but this is what you are paying for – quality and reassurance. Mass production tends to be blended, filtered olive oil to satisfy the large-scale demand.
One of the widely known olive oils around the world is Kalamata extra virgin olive oil produced in Greece. If you want to try a pure quality, you should check our shop and get our family-produced Oliviada olive oil in Kalamata, Greece.
5. Re-Use Olive Oil no More than 4 Times
When frying, you can re-use olive oil several times only if the oil hasn’t been overheated and burned. After you take out the food from the pan or fryer, leave olive oil to cool down and then pour it into a container to be reused next time.
There have been lots of debate going especially on the internet about using extra virgin olive oil for frying instead of regular olive oil or canola oil.
However, one thing is for sure, extra virgin olive oil makes one of the healthiest options for achieving a crunchy crust when frying since it stands up well to heat due to its monounsaturated fats and polyphenol content and is a healthier, safer, and tastier choice compared to other oils.
Bear in mind, frying with high-quality EVOO will be more expensive than frying with cheaper, lower quality, even blended cooking oils such as vegetable oil, or sunflower oil—but its benefits and taste are well worth it.