Why You Might Not Want To Fry Foods With Olive Oil

Ready to cook up something delicious and healthy? If you're doing any sautéing or frying, you might immediately reach for the olive oil. After all, olive oil is the healthy oil, right? It's the obvious best choice. But hold up — frying foods in some olive oils could actually do more harm to your health than good.

Olive oil has a low-ish smoking point when compared with other oil types. This means that if you're frying or cooking anything over a high heat, your olive oil will begin to smoke. As the oil smokes, Eating Well reports that the oil's beneficial compounds begin to break down into unhealthy compounds. As U.S. News & World Report notes, though, once any oil or fat reaches its smoking point, "volatile compounds, such as free-fatty acids, polar compounds and short-chain degradation products, evaporate from the oil," and can increase your risk for lung and bladder cancers.

"Oxidative stability, not smoke point, is the best predictor of how an oil behaves during cooking," registered dietitian Holly Herrington told U.S. News & World Report. It's not that you should avoid using olive oil to fry your food — rather, you should avoid bringing any oil to its smoke point to avoid releasing those volatile compounds.

The smoking point of oil

In order to avoid bringing a certain oil to its smoking point, it's important to know the different smoking points of various oils. Then, you can pick the right oil for your cooking method accordingly. If you're cooking at an extremely high heat, you'll want to pick an oil that can handle it without smoking.

MasterClass offers a handy oil smoke point chart that shows you which oils to use for high-heat cooking and which to avoid. Avocado oil boasts the highest smoke point, followed by safflower oil and rice bran oil, all of which can withstand temperatures of 490 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter. If you want to cook with olive oil, you'll want to keep the temperatures below 465 degrees Fahrenheit and, even then, only use a light or refined olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil has a much lower smoking point and is, in fact, the oil with the second-lowest smoking point temperature on the chart, at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, right above butter.