The olive oil controversy

To cook or not to cook, that is the question when it comes to olive oil.

Most of us folks in the health and wellness community know that oils have a smoke point. And, that smoke point changes with each oil or fat.

Generally speaking, the higher the smoke point of the oil, the more heat it can take without oxidizing and becoming unhealthful, contributing to inflammation. Inflammation equals trouble.

Inflammation equals heart disease.

Inflammation equals anything bad you’ve read in the history of every health blog ever.

Needless to say, we need to be a little cautious when cooking with oils.

As fate would have it, my nephews were having a little spat the other day about whether to cook with olive oil or not. One likes to sear his meats in olive oil on a high heat because he likes the flavor that it imparts, and the other said to never ever cook anything with olive oil because it damages it.

They both had valid points.

So, let’s suss it out to get to the bottom of this oily controversy.

Below are some of the Fahrenheit smoke points of various oils/fats[1]:

  • Safflower oil: 520°
  • Rice Bran oil: 490°
  • Refined olive oil: 465°
  • Corn oil: 450°
  • Peanut oil: 440°
  • Sesame oil: 410°
  • Canola oil: 400°
  • Avocado oil: 400°
  • Extra virgin olive oil: 375°
  • Lard: 370°
  • Butter: 350°
  • Coconut oil: 350°

The key point to keep in mind is that the higher the smoke point the more heat the oil can take for a longer time without breaking down.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the temperature when cooking on the stovetop varies as well.

For example, if you cook on a low setting the heat won’t get very high in your frying pan (120° – 180°). But, if you cook on a higher heat you will get exposure to more heat and higher temperatures (350° – 450°).

The highest temperatures are actually found inside the oven itself.

The food is surrounded by heat on all sides. That internal heat doesn’t dissipate or mix with cool air as it would on the stove top, and can reach upwards of 550°. Especially, if you are broiling something

With all of that being said, if you coat your food in extra virgin olive oil and stick it under the broiler inside the oven, this is not a healthy practice.

But, if you pan sear (as my nephew was doing) with olive oil on the stove-top, on a medium heat, it’s a safer option. And, of course… avocado oil or peanut oil would be an even safer bet.

I’m really glad my nephews were arguing about this. Not because I like to hear them argue, of course, but I do like to watch them engaged in cooking meals for themselves and learning about the do’s and don’ts to creating healthy and delicious meals.

Got a question about cooking? Leave it for me in the comments below.

And, if you want to taste a delicious dish using olive oil healthfully and at the right temperature, try this Charred Broccolini. It’s awesome!

[1] https://www.seriouseats.com/2014/05/cooking-fats-101-whats-a-smoke-point-and-why-does-it-matter.html