Don't Believe This Olive Oil Cooking Myth

Rumor has it that you shouldn't fry foods with olive oil or use olive oil over high heat, for a number of reasons. The most common explanation is that olive oil, especially extra-virgin, has a lower smoke point (the temperature at which an oil begins to produce smoke) compared with other vegetable oils. Therefore, when it is placed over high heat, its natural health benefits can be destroyed, per Real Simple. Others claim that high temperatures can cause harmful compounds to develop in olive oil. 

For these reasons, cooks tend to reach for options such as canola oil when cooking over high heat, believing that the affordable, neutral-flavored oil is more heat-resistant. Many of us have taken this myth as fact with no questions asked, especially because olive oil is so expensive. However, we should listen no more! Serious Eats reports that there is no scientific research supporting the idea that using olive oil over high heat has poor health consequences. The site adds that most websites tend to defend this rumor based on the smoke point measure alone, without citing other evidence. As it turns out, olive oil is a great option for high-heat cooking.

Olive oil fares well over high heat

Cooking with extra-virgin olive oil over high heat is a great idea as long as it is of high quality and not blended with other oils, Real Simple explains. Because so much of the olive oil sold in the U.S. is of lower quality — and not as stable in cooking — the rumor that olive oil is bad for frying has spread like wildfire. In reality, Healthline says, pure olive oil doesn't become damaged when cooked over high temperatures, as its smoke point is around 400 degrees Fahrenheit. A Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry study says that this smoke point is even more stable than that of other seed oils at frying temperatures.

Further, oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats are more likely to go downhill when exposed to high heat; but olive oil has mostly heat-resistant monounsaturated fats. This means that it can retain its nutritional properties and antioxidants when cooked over high heat (via Journal of Food Chemistry and Nutrition). 

Now you know: If you're using a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, you will be OK cooking at a temperature as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If you're worried about spending more money for your fried delights, look for good olive oils that won't break the bank. If your olive oil is already saying hi from your pantry, wave back and go for it!