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May 21, 2010 03:20 AM

can i mix olive oil with butter?

hi. i like italian food very much. so i often check italian recipes.
although most of times chefs are ok with mixing olive oil with butter, i heard at least two times that the chef said we do not mix olive oil and butter in italy. so i am wondering why they say different things. i am guessing that there are some regions that they use only olive oil. if so, which regions? i would like to know because i like lighter taste.
well, i like food very much and i also respect its culture so i want to cook food as good as original ones.
thank you for your answers.
ps. if there are other common taboos such as meatball spaghetti, please let me know.

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  1. In general, the further south you go in Italy, the less likely it is that you will find that butter is used in cooking. The only time that I mix the two is when making risotto, but you can use either butter or olive oil -- whichever you prefer. Spaghetti and meatballs is more of an Italian-American dish than it is an Italian one. In Italy, you will find meatballs, but very rarely will they be cooked in tomato sauce and served along side pasta. However, eat what you like, if you like spaghetti and meatballs, then eat it. As far as taboos in cooking go, there are a million in Italian food. For example, rarely is cheese served with fish, so you would not put grated cheese on clam sauce. And if you search this board, you will find that many dishes are very narrowly defined in Italian cuisine. For example, carbonara, which is properly made with just eggs, guanciale, cheese and black pepper. Some people like to add cream, for example, but many Italians (and particularly Romans since this is where this dish originated) will say that the addition of cream makes it another dish entirely. Your best bet is to invest in a good Italian cookbook. Books with specific regional cuisines will likely be the most 'authentic'' for that area. Good luck!

    1 Reply
    1. re: roxlet

      thanks roxlet!
      it was my first time post so i was wondering if anyone would answer.
      so you mean southern italy has more clear taste and northern italy has richer creamer in general? ok, i see.
      yes i have heard of the use of cheese. i think it kinda makes sense because seashells come from different place than dairy.
      well, i wish i could invest on cook books but i mostly rely on youtube and other video recipes for now...
      i hope i will be able to learn in italy someday:)

    2. YumX4--you might consider checking cookbooks out of your local library. It can be a great way to take a few books on a test run.

      Here's a couple of "Best Italian Cookbook" threads to get you started, if you're interested.

      Also, for several years, we've had a "Cookbook of the Month" here on Home Cooking where people (anyone) vote on a book we'd all like to cook from, and then cook out of it for the month and post about our experiences. Sometimes we vote for one book, sometimes several. Sometimes we cook for several months. (The current COTM is "Gourmet Today," fyi.).

      Anyway, several Italian books have been COTM over the years, including Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking," which was our very first cookbook. These threads are great resources, if you wanted to cook from some of those books. (And people still post to them, too!) Here is a list of the COTM archives, in case you're interested.


      1 Reply
      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        thanks TDQ.
        i did not think of the library.
        those threads are keepers!

      2. Here's an old thread about that cheese+fish thing.


        1. Generally speaking, olive oil is added to butter to raise the smoking point of the butter when some buttery flavor is desirable in the dish. Unless I wanted buttery flavor for some reason, I would not combine the two. Olive oil has a distinct flavor of its own and butter added to olive oil, IMO, only serves to spoil the flavor of the olive oil when the pungent flavor of the oil is appropriate to the recipe.
          Here's a very good and quite inexpensive Italian cookbook that you might want to consider.

          "Biba" Caggiano operates a restaurant in Sacramento California - fabulous ...

          6 Replies
          1. re: todao

            I'm going to jump in on that; olive oil does not raise the smoking point of butter. Butter will burn regardless of the heat source, whether it be a hot pan or hot oil. Do not make the mistake of thinking that mixing lipids with different smoke points somehow averages the two out, it doesn't.

            If you want to raise the smoke point of butter, clarify it. This will remove the dairy solids that burn first.

            1. re: Ernie Diamond

              Well, thanks for that, Ernie. I'm one of those who discourages cooks from relying on "old wives tales" - that they should do good scientific research - and now I find I had violated my own rules. I'm embarrassed, but I did research the information you provided and now I am better educated. Thanks for that .....

              1. re: Ernie Diamond

                Could you cite any sources indicating that mixed oils will retain the smoke point of it's constituent oil with the lowest smoke point?

                I've seen a lot of advice that mixing oils will, to a degree, average out the smoke point. Most of this advice is very unscientific, of course, and I understand the basic logic behind your assertion. But I'm not sure that it's true.

                Sources citing Harold McGee seem to indicate that smoke points are based on the amounts of free fatty acids in a fat, and that mixing oils with different amounts of FFAs will effectively dilute the FFA content in a lower-smoke-point oil (or vice versa) and raise the smoke point.
                I believe some commonly sold oils are mixes designed to combine higher smoke points of some oils with better lipid profiles or flavors of others. Pomace olive oil comes to mind. I could be wrong, and I'm no expert on the matter.

                Butter may be different since much of the low smoke point in butter is attributed to milk solids (mostly proteins, I believe) rather than FFAs. I couldn't find any particularly reliable information on this after a quick search.

                Do you have any sources I could look into to further educate myself?

                Edit: this would actually be a fairly easy experiment to design and test on my own, but, being quite lazy, I'm hoping someone could point me to convincing evidence nicely written out for me.

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  Now that I've taken a deeper look at it, I learned that diluting the FFA content does not alter the smoking point. Once the oil into which they are diluted reaches the smoking temperature of the more susceptible structures they simply react as they normally would, albeit over a larger surface area, to release smoke.
                  Quoting from "On Food and Cooking - The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" (Harold McGee) pp39 "Adding oil to butter does not improve its heat tolerance. Clarifying does; butter free milk solids can be heated to 400 (degrees) F"..."before burning."

              2. re: todao

                hi todao.
                you are right. one thing i learned from watching many many cooking shows online was that i have to cook butter until it has a burned pie flavor in order to get very delicious buttery flavor. i did not know it and my dish always came out to be not so great. haha
                anyway, thanks for the book info.

              3. You can get a cheap paperback of Marcella Hazan's "Essentials" -- that will be a good start.

                Personally, I often mix non-EVOO with butter in dishes that call for butter, in order to lower the cholesterol, while still getting a shot of that buttery flavor.