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Is It Safe To Cook With Olive Oil?

There is a constant and ongoing debate about whether is it safe to cook with olive oil. Some of the confusion likely lies in the fact that not all olive oil is created equal. There are high and low quality oils, and they each react very different to cooking.

Certain studies found on PUBMED (a database of peer reviewed journals) have actually exposed to high heat for long periods of time. Even under such extreme conditions, the olive oil does not form significant amounts of harmful compounds.

When it comes to cooking with any kind of oil, there are two main things that people worry about.

1. Smoke point: The temperature that a fat breaks down and turns into smoke.

2. Oxidative stability: How resistant fats are to reacting with oxygen.

Olive Oil Smoke Point

1. Olive oil contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids, which are actually pretty resistant to heating. Damage-prone polyunsaturated fats make up only about 11% of olive oil. The average smoke point of High Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil is between 375-420F (190-215C).

*Note: Olive oil that has been refined (chemically treated) has a higher smoke point of around 468F (242C), but I

would not choose refined olive oil ever.

Olive Oil Oxidative Stability

1. Olive oil contains Vitamin E and many powerful antioxidants. These compounds protect the oil from too much harmful damage during heating.

Definitions

Virgin (and extra virgin) : there was no chemical used to treat this oil. All processing was mechanical (ie. a press).

Refined: the oil was chemically treated to lower the strong tastes and the acid content.

Final Thoughts

1. The only kind of olive oil that I will cook with is High Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

2. Look for an olive oil that has a low 'fatty acid' content, of 0.3% - 0.8%. The lower the better for cooking because lower acids will smoke less as they heat up.

3. Drizzle liberally on salads or after a meal is cooked for major health benefits.

4. You want to set the oil temperature at 360-365˚ with a maximum of 380˚. After frying, filter the cooled oil through a coffee filter and use it 2-3 more times (only for frying). Some studies are finding, with high quality olive oils, even long term high heats do not cause harmful by-products in high quality oils.

5. For high temperature cooking (ie. deep frying) - I like to cook with avocado oil which has a high smoke point of 520F.

6. Whatever kind of cooking you are doing, always avoid breathing in burnt smoke which is harmful to your health.

With love,

Grandmother's Kitchen

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