We keep getting asked: isn’t extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) unhealthy if you cook or fry with it? Isn’t it harmful if you heat it up too much and for too long? Our answer is: you’re doing something unhealthy if you AREN’T frying with it. And no -- of all the cooking oils, EVOO is the safest to heat for long periods. And, the better the quality of the EVOO, the healthier it is for frying. People very often cook and fry with cheaper, lower quality oils, and not with EVOO, because they think it’s a waste of an expensive product. So they only use EVOO for finishing food, on soups or salads and cook with sunflower or rapeseed oil. Others believe that EVOO is worse than other cooking oils as it turns into harmful, toxic, cancer-causing compounds under heat. They say that EVOO has a low “smoke point” and beyond that it’s bad for you. This idea seems more common in German-speaking areas. Both are wrong.
Don’t believe us? Ask Science. First off, the quality of the oil you cook with matters hugely to the taste and healthiness of your food, even at high temperatures. ALL cooking oils degrade with heat. The healthy triglyceride molecules in many cooking oils break down into free fatty acids and trans fats. But not all at the same rate. Look at this chart from academic research performed in Australia in 2018. EVOO degrades far more slowly than other oils under high heat in general (to 240C), and under moderate to high heat for a long time (180C for 360 minutes).
Also, all cooking oils release compounds into foods as they heat up, affecting taste and nutrition. EVOO releases more nutritional value and health benefits into the food it cooks than other oils – after all, most of the other cooking oils have been chemically processed and lack much nutritional benefits in the 1 st place! It also follows that the better the quality of the olive oil, in terms of freshness, low acidity and polyphenol content, the more goodness is released into the food.
Secondly, the release of toxic or polar compounds, if you heat a cooking oil beyond its smoke point, is a real thing and happens to all oils. But again, according to the same research, EVOO under heat outperforms all other cooking oils and releases fewer of these polar compounds, or anhydride molecules, than any other at the same temperature. The higher the antioxidant or polyphenol content of a cooking oil, the more heat energy is needed to break chemical bonds and oxidise the fats. EVOO has higher polyphenol content than other oil so is more resistant. And again, the quality of the EVOO makes a difference.
Low quality supermarket oils go bad faster than fresh, traceable artisanal products at the same temperature. Ironically, the cheaper oils that people most often use for cooking instead of EVOO tend to produce the most polar compounds! That’s sunflower, rapeseed and grape seed oils.
Coconut oil is almost as good as EVOO, by the way. So there you have it! Top quality EVOO is the only cooking oil you should be using. And now you have access to Amfora’s low prices, there’s no excuse. And if, even after that, you don’t want to believe Science, or us, think about this: Greek grandmothers only cook with EVOO, have been doing it for 1000s of years, and have a longer life expectancy than all other grandmothers in Europe. So put that in your pan and bring to the smoke point!
Yassine, Manager and Head Chef
Les Fourneaux du Manège
Sème ta graine