Contrary to popular belief, olive oil is one of the best oils for frying. The medium-high smoke point of olive oil exceeds the temperatures needed for frying. Furthermore, olive oil contains oleic acid and minor compounds that protect the oil from breaking down, even after reuse.
Frying is one of the most common and most delicious ways to prepare food. Throughout the Mediterranean, traditional foods like pescadillo, calamari, keftedes, patatas a la pobre, carciofi alla giudea, and falafel are all fried in olive oil. Mediterraneans know that olive oil is the best oil for cooking and frying. So why do Americans believe that olive oil should only be used raw?
Olive oil is one of the most stable oils for cooking. Unlike other common cooking oils, olive oil contains compounds and antioxidants that prevent the oil from breaking down under moderate heat. Additionally, olive oil is mostly composed of oleic acid (Omega-9), a monounsaturated fatty acid that is naturally resistant to oxidation.
Multiple peer-reviewed studies have shown that olive oil is the best oil for frying. Olive oil outperformed vegetable, peanut, corn, soybean, sunflower and canola oils.
- Olive oil can be heated to high temperatures - In 2013, Food Chemistry published a report comparing free radical formation and oxidation (rancidity) when heating peanut oil and extra virgin olive oil. The researchers found that more heat was needed to start the oxidation process in the extra virgin olive oil than in the peanut oil. Read more
- Olive oil can be reheated and reused safely - In 2014, the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published a study comparing refined olive oil with corn, soybean, and sunflower oils. They deep-fried and pan-fried potatoes at heat up to 374°F for up to ten successive sessions. Olive oil was found to be the most stable, had the greatest resistance to oxidative deterioration, and its trans-fatty acid contents and harmful compounds were found to be lowest. Read more
- Olive oil can be heated to high temperatures for long periods of time - In 2012, Food Chemistry published a study comparing extra virgin olive oil to sunflower oil. Both oils were heated in an industrial fryer at 374°F for 40 hours. The study found that extra virgin olive oil performed better than sunflower oil. Read more
- Olive oil produces fewer harmful compounds when overheated - In 2004, a team studied the aldehydes produced by heating extra virgin olive oil, olive oil and canola oil to 464°F. The study found that both extra virgin and regular olive oil were healthier than canola oil. Read more
- Olive oil is also good for shallow frying - A 2016 study experimented with shallow frying fish at 340°F in both extra virgin olive oil and sunflower oil. Olive oil performed better, showing more resistance to oxidation and degradation. Read more
- Frying in olive oil is heart healthier - Perhaps most interestingly, a study in the British Medical Journal states that there is no link between the consumption of fried foods and heart disease when the food was fried in olive oil. Read more
- Frying in olive oil may fight disease - A 2016 study found that vegetables fried in extra virgin olive oil contained more phenols and antioxidants than vegetables boiled in water. Read more.