Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Frying? A Good Idea!

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Frying with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Photo: frying with extra virgin olive oil
✓ Extra Virgin Oil can be used for frying
✓ The correct frying temperature depends on the food
✓ The extra virgin olive oil must never reach the smoke point
✓ Recent studies confirm that EVOO is also ideal for frying foods
✓ Always fry properly and do not reuse the frying oil!

Can you fry with extra virgin olive oil?

Extra Virgin olive oil is just perfect for cooking, everyone knows that. But can this fabulous Italian olive oil also be used for frying? What is the right temperature of the oil for frying?

This article is about the benefits of frying food with extra virgin olive oil.
If we want to fry food in oil we need to consider two things:

  • Taste - Does food fried in oil taste good?
  • Health - Is food fried in oil healthy?

EVOO is the best quality of Italian olive oil.

Extra virgin olive oil benefits

  • No chemical treatment
  • Percentage of fatty acids equal to or less than 0.8% per 100 g of oil
  • Processing is carried out mechanically, the olives are cold-pressed (max 27 degrees)
  • No taste and smell defects

This guide to EVO oil explains the importance of oil acidity and mechanical processing.

However, when people say EVOO is the best olive oil, they are referring to raw oil, not fried oil.

Some people consider peanut oil the best oil for frying. Others say that it is better to fry with olive oil, as long as it is not extra virgin. Let's try to solve the mystery.

Extra virgin olive oil for cooking and frying

When we talk about the nutritional characteristics and the unmistakable fruity, bitter taste of EVOO oil we almost always refer to raw extra virgin oil. Studies have shown the benefits of Italian extra virgin olive oil are rarely considered when cooking or frying chicken, chips or eggs.

In fact, Italian extra virgin olive oil is often used when cooking food as well. Think bolognese sauce, tomato sauces,meat stews or eggs. The examples are endless. EVOO can be cooked. But can extra virgin olive oil also be used for frying food? Fried fish

We say extra virgin oil is cooked when it is heated at low temperatures.

We say extra virgin olive oil is fried when it is heated to between 160° and 200°C.

Extra virgin olive oil smoke point and frying temperature

The smoke point is the temperature at which heated oil begins to smoke before food is added.
Two things must be borne in mind:

  • When olive oil starts to produce smoke it is no longer edible
  • The higher the smoke point of the oil, the more suitable it is for frying

However, this does not mean that you should always fry at the temperature closest to the smoke point. As this article explains, the ideal oil frying temperature depends on:

  • The type and thickness of the food being fried
  • The frying time, which should never exceed 10 minutes

How to fry food with extra virgin olive oil correctly

It's not easy to determine the right frying temperature. However, if you are frying chicken in olive oil and the oil is producing a curtain of smoke, you should not eat it as it is bad for your health.

Food that has been fried in olive oil at the right temperature looks like this:

  • It is cooked inside
  • It has a typical golden crust on the outside.
  • It is not greasy

Smoke point and acrolein production

There has always been much discussion about the best oil for frying. Some argue that the best oils are the refined ones, such as peanut oil. According to supporters of this theory, the smoke point of unrefined cold-pressed olive oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, is too low. Exceeding the smoke point results in the production of acrolein, a toxic liquid chemical.

Extra-virgin olive oil has a very high smoke point, on average 180°C. In some cases it can even exceed 200°C.

On the other hand, the smoke point of refined (chemically obtained) oils all have a smoke point above 200 degrees Celsius. While the smoke point of cold-pressed olive oils such as extra virgin oil varies greatly depending on the variety of olives.

Recent studies, such as the one by the Federico II University of Naples, have come to the conclusion that extra virgin olive oil is excellent for frying food.

Antioxidant function against acrylamide

Extra virgin olive oil is not refined and its phenolic antioxidants are preserved intact. Phenolic antioxidants block the development of acrylamide, a toxic, potentially carcinogenic substance, which (like acrolein) is produced when the smoke point is exceeded in frying oil. The oxidation process is the result of cooking at high temperatures and the oil being exposed to oxygen.

As clearly explained in this article, oxidation leads to a chemical degeneration of the oil, resulting in an accumulation of free radicals and molecules with a certain degree of toxicity.

EVO oil contains many plant antioxidants that reduce heat stress and are partially transferred into fried food.

Why is extra virgin olive oil so resistant to heat? This is down to its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids, which are much more stable than polyunsaturated fatty acids.

The authors of a study published in Science Direct claim that olive oil releases fewer pollutants during both cooking and frying than sunflower oil, used as a comparison. However, the oil's active plant substances that are beneficial to health are lost at high temperatures, according to this study. Moreover, olive oil is not suitable for microwave cooking where, for reasons still unknown, all the valuable ingredients are quickly lost. As we have said, however, extra virgin olive oil is the best quality of olive oil. And in fact some people maintain that there is no oil more suitable for frying than extra virgin olive oil.

This was the conclusion of a panel of tasters of extra virgin olive oil from the Lazio region and of a study carried out by the University of Naples, which is also involved in the AGER project.

According to the "Oil and Cooking" study produced by the panel, good quality Italian extra virgin olive oil has the highest smoke point among the edible oils available on the market.

OIL SMOKE POINT (°C)
Palm oil 223
Rapeseed oil 200
Soya Oil 190
Sunflower oil 170
Peanut oil 207
Extra virgin olive oil >200

According to this study, the actual smoke point of extra virgin olive oil depends on the cultivar, i.e. the type of olives from which the oil is made.

In addition to its high smoke point, there are two other factors that make extra virgin olive oil particularly suitable for frying food:

  • monounsaturated fats
  • antioxidant substances

EVOO is a particularly stable oil, and the one that alters the least during frying. Moreover, unlike other oils with a high smoke point such as peanut oil, even when fried, extra virgin oil continues to enhance the flavours of foods.

How does the taste of olive oil change when it is fried?

The taste of fried oil - especially extra virgin olive oil - changes a lot as its temperature increases. The taste of raw extra virgin is different when it is cooked, and even more different when it is fried.

The reason the taste of oil changes when fried is the oxidation process, but not only that. If you are thinking of frying with extra virgin olive oil, be aware that the taste of the fried oil also changes depending on the olive cultivar. We prefer to fry with a mild, fruity extra virgin olive oil, but it is a matter of taste.

The fruity, delicate, medium or intense taste of the extra virgin olive oil influences the taste of the fried food.

Is fried oil bad for your health?

Extra virgin olive oil is a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet. However, not as frying oil.
Frying is one of the most difficult techniques for cooking food, especially if you fry at home and not in a professional kitchen.

As we have seen, extra virgin oil has a high smoke point and has some features that make it particularly suitable for frying. There are many vegetable oils that are used for deep frying food, including sunflower oil, peanut oil, coconut and even canola oil. Although opinions on which is the best oil for frying have always been very divided, extra virgin olive oil is one of the best oils for frying.

Providing it is good quality oil. Extra virgin oils are not all the same. Unfortunately, extra virgin oil from supermarkets is often mass-produced, and mediocre in quality.

Tips for frying with extra virgin olive oil. Here are some tips for frying food well with extra virgin olive oil:

  • The choice of oil is just as important as the choice of food to fry
  • The food must be completely covered by the oil
  • The frying temperature of the oil must be right
  • At the end of the frying process, the food should be placed on an absorbent sheet to remove any excess oil
  • Fried food should not be eaten too frequently. Raw oil has superior nutritional and organoleptic properties than fried oil
  • Do not reuse the same oil for frying

What is the right temperature for frying with extra virgin olive oil?

The correct temperature for frying with oil depends on the food and the smoke point of the oil.

FOOD FRYING OIL TEMPERATURE (°C)
Foods rich in water (fish, vegetables) 165
Breaded foods (meat, fish) 180
Potatoes small fish, shellfish, dumplings 200

How many calories does fried extra virgin oil have?

Frying increases the calories of foods exponentially. Therefore, it is better not to consume too much fried food.

A teaspoon of raw extra virgin oil contains about 40-45 calories, and a tablespoon 100-110 calories. Depending on the type of oil, 100 grams of raw extra virgin olive oil contains about 880-900 calories. As Italian nutritionist Prof. Scoppelliti explains in this video, when oil is cooked it doesn't actually gain any more calories. Oil contains about 9 calories per gram, but frying changes the chemical properties of the food and also the calories.
Fried foods are in general much higher in calories than raw foods.

For example, 100 grams of raw potatoes contain about 70 kcal.

100 grams of potato chips contain about 300 kcal and bagged crisps, which are also largely made of potatoes, have as much as about 500 kcal per 100 grams.
French Fries

Why are fried foods more high in calories?

In general, fried foods are more high in calories than raw foods for two reasons:

  • the fats they absorb
  • the water they lose during the frying process

Put simply, we can say that the calorie count of food increases the more fat is used in its preparation and the more water it loses during frying.

For this reason it is essential to remove the oil that remains on the food after frying with olive oil. And of course always be careful not to reach the smoke point.

When used under normal cooking conditions, with temperatures up to 180-190°C, as is common in frying, the performance of olive oil is comparable to or better than other vegetable oils.

So why do most fast-food restaurants not use olive oil for deep frying, and especially extra virgin olive oil, for frying? Because it costs more than refined oils. This is especially true for quality EVO oil. So which is the best olive oil for frying? EVOO of course!

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