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Frying in Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

In the recent Saveur, Nancy Harmon Jenkins suggests that the current conventional wisdom that extra virgin olive oil is unsuitable for deep frying because of its lower smoke point is something of a myth, citing her own experiences eating in Spain and quoting Elizabeth David on deep frying fish in OO.

I always fried eggplant in olive oil (for eggplant parm.) b/c that's how I learned to do it, but haven't done it the past few times after reading and hearing that if it reaches too high a temp., the olive oil loses its health benefits.
Q1: Does anyone know if there is any science behind this?
Q2: Does mixing higher smokepoint oil w/that w/lower s.p. actually raise the smokepoint for the olive oil (or butter)? (Although I've done this as directed a few times, it strikes me as counterintuitive.)

Obviously, cooks in Mediterranean cultures fry in olive oil--and they seem to be on to something regarding diet and health. And I love the idea of using olive oil (not my most precious, perhaps, but a decent quality) for certain things on those occasions when I am deep frying. What about other Hounds? Do you fry in EVOO? If so, what brands and foods works best?

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  1. After watching, listening to and reading Batali say "rubbish" to not cooking with oo, I gave it a try. It was not a success but I intend to try again. It clearly got too hot. I recently bought an infraread thermometer (you just aim it at the surface) and want to give it another shot.

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      oooh, i'm jealous -- an infrared thremometer!

    2. as long as you keep the frying temperature below the smoke point, there's no reason not to use olive oil. high-quality EVOO with low acidity and extra light olive oil both have smoke points over 400, so if you're frying at around 350 or 375 you're fine.

      1. You can definitely deep-fry in EVOO. The problem that I've found is that smoke points are somewhat inconsistent. Then there's the cost. If you want olive oil's lipid profile, a much higher smoke point, and a much cheaper price, try frying in olive pomace oil.

        9 Replies
          1. re: nomadchowwoman

            I picked up a gallon at a restaurant supply place for ~$15 and have enjoyed using it. It doesn't have much (any?) olive flavor, so I use it in place of vegetable oil.

            1. re: alanbarnes

              You know, I can buy a gallon of EVOO--it's not high quality, of course--at Sam's for $13.99. I think i'm going to try using that and just make sure I keep the temp under 375. (I love the flavor of olive oil although for some things, I could see it might not work.)
              Anyway, this is all good to learn. I had myself convinced that something bad happened to olive oil if one fried in it!

            2. re: nomadchowwoman

              It's readily available here and was on sale last week for $7.99/100 oz. Larger supermarkets or Italian/Mediterranean markets will most likely have it. Make sure it's states "Pomace" on the label.

              It has very, very little olive oil flavor and a high smoke point.

              1. re: bushwickgirl

                On Olive Oil Source, http://www.oliveoilsource.com/catalog..., Pomace is listed as "ideal for soapmakers".

                This is also from a different page of the same site: Pomace is the ground flesh and pits left after the extraction process. According to the IOOC, all olive-pomace oils are obtained by treating it with solvents or other physical treatments. Within the olive-pomace oils category, oil specifically labeled as olive-pomace oil is a blend of virgin olive oil and refined pomace oil.

                1. re: O22039

                  All conventional vegetable oils are produced using solvents (usually hexane). So if you have a problem with that, you'd better be prepared to swear off canola oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil, too.

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    "All commercial vegetable oils are obtained using solvents (usually hexane). "
                    that's not quite true. expeller- and cold-pressed oils are obtained without solvents.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      You're correct, of course. The brain thought "conventional," but the fingers typed "commercial." I edited it.

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        yep, my fingers occasionally have a mind of their own as well :)

          2. I grew up with mother/grandmothers/aunts & uncles frying in EVolive oil. Not deep frying to be sure, but pan frying. I've been doing it for years. Except for the times when cooking from various COTMs when other oils were required for the ethnic recipes. Never had a problem. Never had an off taste.

            1. I used to, and I used mainstream Colavita EVOO, or other Italian mid-price range imports, but now I purchase and save my more pricy EVOO for cold food use. It's a matter of budgetary restraints for me. I sauté in pure olive oil, when it's appropriate for the food product, as you do with eggplant. It seems I sauté in olive oil mostly for Mediterranean dishes and I bake with it sometimes. I don't deep fry with olive oil; again, bugetary constraints. I haven't temped my oil, but I'm not sauteing at above 375° at home and don't have a smoke point issue.

              So fry in EVOO if you wish, no reason why you shouldn't. Here's an older link for a discussion on the subject at hand, with some deep frying sucess stories and ideas for foods to fry:


              This link, from the California Olive Ranch, an olive oil producer, talks about a method for deep frying potatoes for French Fries in EVOO. The article contains a few bits of information about using low fatty acid oils, such as EVOO, for frying, and why it's fine to do so:


              1. Thanks all. This is good to hear; I'm going to try frying a little seafood in a couple of inches of a moderately priced EVOO soon.

                1. A controversial topic to be sure. Like most Chow topics, I do not think that this comes down to science but to personal taste/preference. Based on experiences with my deep fryer, the smoke point of EVOO is absolutely a non-issue. Monitor the temperature and you are fine. What IS a significant issue (even apart from the cost) is the flavor that deep frying in EVOO will impart. And it will impart significant flavor. Sometimes that is good, but sometimes it is not so good, it really depends (on taste, preference, etc. etc.).

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: StevieC

                    My mother has been using EVOO for deep frying ever since she found out about the health benefits. I was alarmed when I read that EVOO could burn at high temperatures and I asked her if it burned or anything. She said she deep fries fine with it, and I certainly haven't tasted anything weird from her fried dishes.

                    For my own cooking, I havent been that successful though (though I'm just a beginner cook).

                    1. re: StevieC

                      I'm with StevieC on this one. When I'm frying some things with a delicate light taste like pompano, grouper, even shrimp, or squash croquettes, i prefer not to have the heavy flavor of olive oil, and if I can get a lighter extra taste with grapeseed oil for less cost, I'm better off 2 ways.

                    2. Just fried calamari and soft shell crabs last night in Costco's Pure Olive Oil (comes in the 5L jug). I fry them between about 360 and 375.

                      I think there is something to the idea that taking extra-virgin olive oil to high temps destroys some of the phytochemicals. But it certainly doesn't change the health benefits of monounsaturated fat.

                      Also, I deep fry in olive oil once and toss. This is mostly because I am usually frying seafood and the oil gets stinky (even if I strain it). But I don't find peanut oil gets as stinky. I suspect this may have to do with the breakdown of oleic acid in olive oil vs. higher proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids in peanut oil.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: Junie D

                        we strain and save fish frying oil, keeping it in the fridge. after a couple-three times (you'll know), then you can toss it. i like frying in peanut oil.

                        always remember mario frying in the evoo.

                        1. re: alkapal

                          When frying seafood or onion rings, I also use peanut oil and strain and reuse, though I've never it used more than once. I'd like to try certain seafoods in olive oil (though I'm such a bad fryer, even w/thermometer, I could easily screw it up). But I need to check out the infrared thermometer CO mentioned; if it's not too expensive, it could be a good investment.

                          1. re: nomadchowwoman

                            I use this one. It's great!


                            It was about $35. You can get one for under $20, but those tend to top out at 220C (438F). Good for deep frying, but you need something that goes higher if you want to see how hot the pizza stone is or check the temperature of the grill.

                            1. re: alanbarnes

                              On this subject, I am totally ignorant. I've googled a bit and read several reviews, but I can't get a lot of info on using them for cooking. But what I'm seeming to get, and maybe you can answer this for me, is that they measure the surface temp. Is that right? Which would be great for oil. But is there any way they measure internal temps too--for meat, etc.? I see that people use them for lots of other household issues so they seem like they'd be good to have around, but I'm not quite understanding how they work.

                              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                Every object with a temperature above absolute zero emits electromagnetic radiation, and the frequency of those waves is dependent on temperature. So basically an infrared thermometer is just a lens that focuses that radiation on a sensor, which translates the wavelength into degrees. There's a laser in there, too, but it's just a pointing device - it tells you what spot the lens is gathering data from.

                                Since you're measuring using light, there's no way to "see" the inside of an opaque object. So the only way you can measure the interior temperature of, say, a roast would be to cut it open and measure the cut side. Not exactly practical.

                                ThermoWorks does make an IR thermometer that accepts a thermocouple probe. Of course the fact that I want one says less about my kitchen skills than about how nerdy I am...


                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  Thanks for the info; it helps a lot. Pretty techno-idiotic, I hadn't even heard of these IR thermometers. But they sound great.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                Thanks--this looks like something I really DO need, and the price is right.

                          2. re: Junie D

                            Is the Costco pure olive oil a pretty neutral flavor? I am looking for something with very little flavor for frying and making mayo but that still has some health benefits. I wonder how the flavor of plain old 'pure olive oil' compares with the 'pomace' oil....anyone? And do they both have the health benefits of EVOO or does it have to be cold pressed virgin for that?

                            1. re: sparkareno

                              It has a bit of color and flavor. Probably would be good for mayo - I don't tend to like "full strength" extra virgin olive oil mayo. I like to be able to taste the egg yolk, so I usually use half extra virgin olive oil, half canola or safflower.

                              In terms of health benefits, cold-pressed extra virgin will have the most phytochemicals, but even pure and pomace still have your monounsaturated fat.

                              1. re: Junie D

                                Thanks---does grapeseed oil have less flavor? I too like to taste the eggs in mayo & the lemon in caesar dressing. Canola oil tastes fishy to me & I don't think that safflower oil has the health benefits (but i could be wrong).

                                1. re: sparkareno

                                  grapeseed oil definitely has less flavor than even half-strength evoo.

                          3. I'm okay with using EVOO for pan-frying, but I would use a lighter oil for deep frying. It's cheaper than using a large quantity of good quality extra virgin olive oil. And I don't think it adds much taste to something deep fried.


                            1. james peterson in his master piece "cooking" suggests using pure olive oil over extra virgin, which he says is expensive and loses its flavor when heated. there are plenty of instances where he recommends extra virgin, just not for frying or sauteeing.

                              i guess it depends on your income, but if you're destroying the flavor of the oil, why cook in it? if you want something flavorless, go with vegetable or canola oil. i use pure olive oil for most cooking, unless i'm making pizza dough, salad dressing, and maybe i'm forgetting a few things, but it's rare i reach for the expensive stuff.


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: calben007

                                I have sauteed and seared with EVOO's for years without any problems. That said, just because a bottle says it's EVOO does not mean it really is. In fact most EVOO's flunk when properly tested for EVOO characteristics from IOC and USDA. and even more flunk when tested by the newer German/Australian tests. In short--Not all EVOO's are equal. Some are really just Virgin and some less so. Some use chemicals (hexane) and/or heat to extract the last drop and some let the olives sit too long before pressed.

                                No problems cooking with a good EVOO as long as you know what you are doing. Most good ones will have smoke point of 400F and above. Years ago I was taught that one should NEVER use EVOO for higher temp cooking and luckily I figured out rather quickly--they were wrong. Also I buy EVOO at a great price so no economic worries.

                              2. Hello-Just because a product is on the market doesn;t mean it is entirely safe to cook with.
                                Grapeseed oil and Canola oil are probably two of the worst.
                                Just do an internet search for both of them on the problems with the two oils.
                                Grapeseed is nothing more than poison to your system and Canola oil comes from Canada and was originally developed to lubricate machinery. It wasn;t selling real well so the CA FDA was paid off to approve it for human consumption. Then the US FDA was also paid off to approve it.
                                Please don;t use either of these oils for cooking or salads. Just use EVOO and be safe.