Everything You Need To Know About Smoke Point of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Updated: Aug 27, 2020
Have you ever noticed blue smoke rising up when you are cooking with any oil at really high temperatures?
The temperature at which smoke starts to appear is called the smoke point. It is just one of the factors used to determine which oils are best for cooking with.
The smoke point is not a single number. Rather it is a range of temperatures within which smoking may start. Different types or grades of olive oil have their own smoke point. That’s because their chemical properties vary significantly.
Really good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) has a higher smoke point than others. It ranges roughly between 190 to 220°C (375 to 430°F). That’s because it is low in free fatty acids (FFA) and the smoke point of an oil generally increases as the FFA content decreases. This low acid content puts it at the top of preferred cooking oils.
Cooking exposes food to a variety of temperatures:
Pan frying (sauté): on stove top heat 120°C (248 °F)
Deep frying: 160 to 180°C (320 to 356 °F)
Oven baking: below 200 °C (392 °F), and often no more than 180°C (about 360 °F)
Stir-frying: 176 to 204 °C (350°F to 400°F)
EVOO has a reasonably high smoke point which is generally above the standard temperatures required for cooking. Even better is to cook with premium quality EVOO due to its even lower FFA which results in an actual smoke point in the upper end of the range.
EVOO is the highest grade, the purest form of olive juice. Among natural olive oils, EVOO has the lowest FFA content of no more than 0.8%. Premium quality EVOO has FFA content as low as 0.2 to 0.4%. It results from fresh, healthy olive fruit, which are carefully handled, harvested, and freshly milled to minimize deterioration of the fruit (deteriorated fruit delivers oils with higher FFA).
By comparison, chemically refined oils, such as Canola oil, may have similar FFA levels but they are processed and refined. They do not provide the superb health benefits that EVOO does.
You must be wondering why anybody would ever settle for chemically refined alternatives for cooking when the wholesome goodness of EVOO is readily available and far better for you.
In addition, the high levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in EVOO also make it ideal for all types of cooking. There is no doubt that when food is cooked with EVOO it is healthier than if cooked with other oils. Studies have shown that cooking in Extra Virgin Olive Oil increases the beneficial value of food, such as antioxidants and tocopherols. Cooking Brassica vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kale) in EVOO allows to preserve glucosinolates and vitamin C, both helpful to prevent or fight cancers.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil also enhances the flavors of food cooked in it. It cooks food quickly because it conducts hotter temperatures into the inside of the food.
By comparison, Canola oil is heavily refined and mostly GMO. Refining markedly lowers the nutrients in oils, such as essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins.
Canola oil contains a higher level of omega-6 fats, which are believed to contribute to inflammation when consumed regularly.
For those reason, people are switching away from Canola oil because of health fears. The best option without a doubt is EVOO – full of natural goodness.
Why do we use cooking oil to cook food?
Heat transforms the composition of food from a raw state to what we think of as cooked. The raw structures break down, texture changes, and food takes on different, nicer flavors.
Cooking oils are organic solvents. Hot cooking oil dissolves the outer surface of food and gets inside it. That transmits heat to the interior and cooks it evenly. It works faster than dry frying.
So the cooking oil softens the food and cooks it all over.
Temperature and time are the key elements in cooking. They are also very important when using cooking oils. Just as food can get burnt, so can cooking oil when it gets too hot.
What happens to cooking oil when the smoke point is exceeded?
Oils break down at very high temperatures. That means their chemical formulation changes and undesirable compounds can be created. They lose much of their nutritional value and can give the food an unpleasant flavor.
That’s one of the important things about smoke point – you don’t want to be cooking with burnt oil.
What type of cooking is best with Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Note that I said “extra virgin olive oil” and not just “olive oil”. There is a vast difference between extra virgin and the other inferior grades that are called olive oil (read more about the differences between them here).
Extra virgin olive oil is nothing more than pure juice of the olive. No chemicals have been added and it has not been blended with lower quality oils. It’s the best that olive oil can get.
Its high smoke point means it is perfect for high temperature cooking such as stir frying or any of these methods:
Grilling / broiling / barbecuing – used to coat cuts like steaks or chops (optional)
Shallow frying – cooking in a little oil for pan fry, sauté, griddle, stir fry
Deep frying – submerging the food in hot oil
Roasting – for coating vegetables or joints
Baking – adds great flavor to breads
A comprehensive guide about “stir-frying” with EVOO in Asian cuisines can be found here.
Find out more about why Extra Virgin Olive Oil is great for cooking with
Read this excellent article about why you should cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil by a qualified food nutritionist. It explains why Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an excellent choice for all kinds of cooking.