Should i fry with Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) has a delicious flavour and is packed full of nutrients that make it the perfect oil for cooking in. Scientists now know what thousands of years of history have told us, that EVOO is ideal for frying.

There is a common and accepted belief that the higher the smoking point of an oil, the better. But scientists in Australia have demonstrated once and for all that this is false.[I]

How heating affects oil

When heated, the character of oils changes. The heat causes chemical and physical reactions to the oil that can affect the oil itself and anything else in the pan.

Some of these reactions can be positive – the glorious golden glow you only get while frying for example. Others can be negative, with free radicals, trans-fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acids and some oxidized products changing the flavour of your food - and potentially damaging your health.

The smoking point of an oil is when it begins to smoke and burn. At this stage, the oil starts to break down and become damaged. Many people have chosen oils with a high smoking point to fry with, believing that the higher the smoking point, the better the oil.

However, the Australian researchers found that an oil's smoking point isn't an accurate predictor of the performance of oil when heated.

"It is a common thought if an oil has a high smoke point, it is preferential for higher-heat cooking despite limited technical evidence to support this," said Sarah Gray, [II] pharmacist and nutritionist at the Olive Wellness Institute, commenting on the research. "The findings of this paper completely debunk this very common myth," she said.

Instead, the scientists found when combined with the total level of unsaturated fats, oxidative stability and UV coefficients are more accurate predictors of the oil's safety.

What the science says

What this research concludes is that EVOO is safer to use for frying than other oils. In tests, it produced less harmful substances called polar compounds. These harmful substances may cause Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's, said Gray.

The study found that frying extra virgin olive oil doesn't damage polyphenols like oleocanthal that are beneficial to health and wellbeing.

Researchers concluded their paper by stating that: "EVOO has demonstrated to be the most stable oil when heated, followed closely by coconut oil and other virgin oils such as avocado and high oleic acid seed oils."

In another fascinating study, Spanish researchers discovered that the use of EVOO in cooking could improve the bio-accessibility of polyphenols.[III] They conclude that the benefits of the Mediterranean diet are not only caused by the consumption of foods like EVOO but also in cooking methods – like frying.

Using EVOO as the base for a tomato sauce can help to deliver a hit of flavour as well as preserving the health benefits of the abundant polyphenols.[IV]

This is in contrast to boiling, which scientists have observed can reduce the total amount of polyphenols and other positive compounds found in vegetables.[V]

Science appears to be catching up with what the ancient Romans and Greeks knew: that extra virgin olive oil is the perfect everyday oil for frying.

How to cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In the Mediterranean, people have used olive oils for cooking for thousands of years. In the past, there was no distinction between the various grades of olive oils. EVOO was used for cooking with, as a salad dressing and even applied to the skin to improve wellbeing.

Here’s how you can use Eoniea's oils for frying. Follow our instructions to seal in the flavour and protect health-giving polyphenols:

  •   Use Eonia oil sparingly. A tablespoon of oil is enough for shallow frying.
  •   Add the oil to the pan and apply the heat. Don't add oil to a hot pan.
  •   Never leave the oil frying on its own, keep your eye on it at all times.
  •   Keep the food moving in the pan to avoid the oil sticking, catching or burning.
  •   Add a little more oil if you need to, but don't add too much.
  •   Never use EVOO for deep-fat frying.

[I] Actascientific.com. (2019). [online] Available at: https://actascientific.com/ASNH/pdf/ASNH-02-0083.pdf [Accessed 8 Oct. 2019].

[II] Olive Oil Times. (2018). Research Finds Extra Virgin Olive Oil Safest, Most Stable for Cooking. [online] Available at: https://www.oliveoiltimes.com/olive-oil-basics/extra-virgin-olive-oil-safest-most-stable-for-cooking/63179 [Accessed 8 Oct. 2019].

[III] Rinaldi de Alvarenga, J., Quifer-Rada, P., Francetto Juliano, F., Hurtado-Barroso, S., Illan, M., Torrado-Prat, X. and Lamuela-Raventós, R. (2019). Using Extra Virgin Olive Oil to Cook Vegetables Enhances Polyphenol and Carotenoid Extractability: A Study Applying the sofrito Technique. Molecules, 24(8), p.1555.

[IV] Rinaldi de Alvarenga JF, e. (2019). Mediterranean sofrito home-cooking technique enhances polyphenol content in tomato sauce. - PubMed - NCBI . [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31321777 [Accessed 8 Oct. 2019].

[V] Hwang, I., Shin, Y., Lee, S., Lee, J. and Yoo, S. (2012). Effects of Different Cooking Methods on the Antioxidant Properties of Red Pepper (Capsicum annuum L.). Preventive Nutrition and Food Science, 17(4), pp.286-292.