There are some discrepancies about how long ago the olive was being grown and produced for its oil. One thing is agreed upon, it dates back before Christ when Israel’s 12 tribes overtook the land of Canaan (Israel).
The first recorded oil extraction is from the the Bible, in the 13th century B.C., during the Exodus from Egypt. Its many uses spread from present day Israel, Syria and Turkey to the Mediterranean basin during the Roman Empire. Since then its not only been used for food but ceremonially to anoint, medicinally for health, and topically for beauty.
Present day, olive oil continues to be the oil of choice for many parts of the Arab world and the Mediterranean. Its climates have optimal temperatures where olive trees live for thousands of years. Spain, Italy and Greece are the major producers of olive oil producing more than 75% of the world production.
Can You Heat and Cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
One of the most confusing “suggestions” I’ve seen within the real food and health communities are the explanations on how to use extra virgin olive oil. Many people suggest you only use extra virgin olive oil raw or slightly heated. Drizzled on vegetables, to finish off dishes, and used to make vinaigrettes for salads.
Being that I come from a Spanish traditional family, its been slightly difficult to stomach considering my family has used extra virgin olive oil in all of their cooking for generations. I’m referring to thousands of years. It’s my number one oil of choice and I use it in sauteing, frying, and eaten raw.
So, What’s the Issue?
The issue concerns the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil. The temperature at which olive oil burns, turns rancid, and in turn lets out free radicals which act as carcinogens. Yes, this is true. Extra Virgin Olive Oil does not have as high of a smoke point as lard or coconut oil. However, do we ever truly reach its smoke point while cooking with it?
An Experimental Video
I’ve created a video talking about my feelings towards some of these olive oil suggestions and test how high I typically heat my olive oil to cook a traditional Spanish dish, papas fritas con huevos (fried potatoes and eggs).
In this video I talk about how olive oil should be used, how to cook with it the right way so that you never reach its smoke point, and a trick on how to always know when your olive oil is brought up to temperature and ready to cook with.
Did I reach the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil while frying potatoes and eggs?
Not even close. This was such a fun experiment for me as it really tested how high of a temperature olive oil gets when cooking common dishes of a typical Spanish, Mediterranean diet.
5 Points from the Video to Take Away
- The quality of the extra virgin olive oil is important.
- Never use extra virgin olive oil for typical American dishes such as deep fat frying chicken. Use lard.
- Whenever you cook with olive oil (or any kind of oil) raise the temperature of your oil gradually. Never heat your oil at high heat…it will burn.
- When raising the temperature of the olive oil gradually, how do you know when it’s up to heat and ready to cook with? Use the traditional bread method as explained in the video.
- Never raise the temperature past 375F when using extra virgin olive oil.
I hope this video presentation was helpful in seeing that extra virgin olive oil can be used to cook with. When using it to cook just be aware to never deep fat fry with it. If it’s an American staple, use an American fat…pure pork lard.
Do you use extra virgin olive oil to cook with? What’s your oil of choice?
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