It is impossible to imagine cooking without olive oil. Although people in the North also cook a lot with butter, olive oil is a very popular product to cook with. Yet there are still many questions about using olive oil in the kitchen. That is why we at il circolo decided to make a clear list of the most frequently asked questions. Now you don’t need to look any further for the answers!
Can you use olive oil for frying?
When researching this question on the Internet, you often get a somewhat outdated answer. It used to be believed that extra virgin olive oil was not suitable for frying, and that generally it would not be good for heating and was said to even lose its flavour. This belief was based on the assumption that extra virgin olive oil had a low smoke point and that the moment it starts smoking, dangerous substances are released. Even some public institutions advising citizens regarding healthy diets, still publish this outdated information on their websites.(2)
Recently more research has been done on this question and scientists have found that this common believe is not true. In fact, researchers found that most polyphenols contained in extra-virgin olive oil remain intact during frying. Polyphenols are a subgroup within antioxidants, a substances that is important in the fight against free radicals, dangerous chemicals generated by the body as the inevitable byproducts of turning food into energy, or after exercising or exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollution, and sunlight. It also appears that there is no direct link between the smoking point of extra virgin olive oil and a change in its chemical composition. However, this applies to extra-virgin olive oil that has not been refined or blended. Indeed, extra virgin olive oil is found to be the most stable oil when heated.(3)
So the answer to the question of whether you can heat olive oil and use it for baking and frying is: yes. Extra virgin olive oil is the most stable oil to cook with and can be heated as high as 205 °C (400 F). Deep frying occurs at 175 – 190 °C (350-375 F). Convenient to know: a deep fryer is recommended to be set at 175 °C and should never get hotter than 180 °C. A frying pan can get hotter, around 200 °C – 250 °C
Will frying in olive oil make you fat?
One thing is clear: eating a lot of fried food will increase your fat intake. However, if the temperature of the oil is hot enough before you introduce the food, your food will absorb much less cooking oil. This is true for any oil you use for frying. Research reveals that deep frying with virgin olive oil may even enhance the nutritional profile of certain foods, such as French fries. This is because some of the healthy properties of extra virgin olive oil are absorbed by the food during the frying process.
What is the smoke point of olive oil?
The smoke point of olive oil depends on the type of olive oil. The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which the oil begins to decompose, which can be seen by the smoke coming off the oil, hence the term ‘smoke point’. It used to be stated that from this point onwards, dangerous substances are released into the oil and then it is no good to eat. But recent research has made it clear that this is not a hard line and that there is no direct link between the smoke point and the change in the chemical composition of olive oil.(1)
The smoke point of different olive oils:
- High quality (low acidity) extra virgin olive oil: ~207 °C → il circolo olive oil
- Extra virgin olive oil: ~175 °C
- Virgin olive oil: ~216 °C
- Pomace olive oil: ~238 °C
- Refined olive oil: ~242 °C
Can olive oil go bad?
We have previously written a blog post on olive oil storage. For a full overview, you can read it here. The brief summary of what to look out for:
- A good bottle of olive oil can be kept for up to two years after pressing, after that it will still be good but will increasingly lose its flavour. So you can still eat it, but it will become less and less tasty.
- A good bottle shows the date of pressing, so you can take this into account.
- A bottle of lesser olive oil has a shelf life of one year. Such olive oil therefore retains its flavour for less time.
- It is best to check whether the olive oil is still good rather than blindly going by the best-before date. You can read how to do this in the question: How do you know your olive oil is still good?
- If white flakes are floating in the oil, it does not mean it is no longer good, but the olive oil then needs some attention. In the question: What are the white flakes in my olive oil? We go into more detail about what you can do to prevent this.
How do you know your olive oil is still good?
Olive oil has a best before date (and therefore not a use by date) which means that after this date has passed the product can still be used but the quality is no longer guaranteed by the producer. Therefore, the best method to find out if olive oil is still good is by using your senses. By tasting and smelling the olive oil, you can quickly find out whether it has gone rancid. If so, the olive oil has a very strong odour or sour smell. The olive oil then also no longer tastes good. If an olive oil no longer smells or tastes good, you should throw it away. Here you can keep in mind that olive oil should stay good for up to two years after pressing if you store it in the right place. You can read about the best way to store your olive oil in our blog post on olive oil storage.
What nutritional values are in olive oil?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1 tablespoon (13,5 g) of olive oil is characterised by the following nutritional values:
- 119 calories
- 13,5 g of fat, of which 1.86 g is saturated
- 0 g of carbohydrates
- 0 g of sugars
- 0 g of fibre
- 0 g of protein
- 0 g of salt
- 0,1 mg Potassium
It also contains traces of calcium, as well as polyphenols, tocopherols, phytosterols, squalene, and terpenic acids and other antioxidants. There are also several vitamins in olive oil. In 1 tablespoon (13,5 g) of olive oil there are:
- 1,9 milligrams (mg) of vitamin E
- 8,13 micrograms (µg) of vitamin K
- 1.215 g Omega-3 fatty acids
- 0.54 µg Vitamin A
These components have scientifically proven health effects: Omega-3 fatty acids have a beneficial effect on the lipid composition in your blood and protect against cardiovascular diseases. Vitamin A is good for skin, hair and nails, and also helps proper functioning of eyes and immune system. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, protecting blood cells, organs, eyes and tissue. It also aids in metabolism within cells. Vitamin K helps in proper blood clotting and bone formation.
What does a good olive oil taste like?
At il circolo, we of course love our own olive oil. The taste is 30% determined by the type of olive used for the oil and 70% depends on the time of harvesting and the technique of oil extraction. For a whole overview of the flavours and characteristics of different varieties, be sure to check out our blog post on the different varieties and how to recognise them.
Can you combine olive oil with butter?
It is definitely possible to combine olive oil with butter. Often, oil is used for frying at high temperatures. Butter can then be used to add a little extra flavour. So this is a personal choice whether or not to add butter. Within the northern European cuisine, it is common to use butter when cooking, but if you go to southern Europe, oil is mainly used for cooking. This divide is also known as the butter frontier.
There are white flakes in my olive oil?
The formation of white flakes in oil is due to the oil being left in a place that is too cold. The cold temperature has caused the olive oil to solidify, which can cause it to become cloudy, thick or produce white flakes. So this does not mean that the olive oil is no longer good, but that you should store it in a different place. If you want to know more about how best to store your olive oil, you can read more in our blog post on olive oil shelf life.