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May 16, 2010 01:38 PM

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,, 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: