Why fry with virgin olive oil?

measure_twiceDecember 14, 2004

Why do recipes state you should use virgin olive oil for sauteing and frying? I thought the "virgin" part of the name indicated it was cold pressed, and I found this quote:

The International Olive Oil Institute recommends using pure olive oil for frying, since the flavor of extra virgin olive oil tends to break down at frying temperatures, making the added expense a waste.

quote source

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I'd follow the recommendation of the Olive Oil council. They'd know.

I might use use a lightly flavored vegetable oil (canola?)for the frying and then use extra virgin olive oil in the sauce.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2004 at 3:01PM
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I use extra virgin olive oil to saute everything but Asian stuff for which I use peanut oil. I don't use vaste quantities of oil as I don't deep fry and I like the flavor it imparts.

I buy my oil at Trader Joes and it's pretty reasonable -- It doesn't make sense for me to get a lot of different oils since I don't use that much of it and it would go rancid anyway.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2004 at 11:02PM
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I see no reason to keep a bottle of "non Extra virgin" olive oil for the small sautee tasks....
And while the Olive Oil institute may say the flavor breaks down....it's still better than something like Progresso.
Linda C

    Bookmark   December 14, 2004 at 11:59PM
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Sorry, but what is "something like Progresso." Not unlike a fair number of other serious cooks, I don't much care for the taste of EVOO, I find it tends to dominate dishes, sometimes overwhelming them.

While EVOO is a fine product, I think Americans have incorrectly bought into the notion that it's all that genuine Italian cooks use, which isn't the case at all. I grew up with plenty of second generation Italians, and their mothers and grandmothers ALWAYS used a blend that contained some olive oil, but was mostly vegetable oil.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2004 at 4:40PM
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There are all "flavors" of EVOO....depending on the area, the growing conditions etc. To say you don't like EVOO is rather like saying you don't like meat when you have only eaten mutton or venison.
All the Italian cooks I know use EVOO for everything but deep frying....maybe is has to do with what certain families can afford...or what their grandmother's could afford.
Linda C

    Bookmark   December 15, 2004 at 6:33PM
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As I understand it, the Extra Virgin Islands are much smaller than the U.S. Virgin Islands, so consequently the price of the olive oil is much higher plus you pay a tariff. They've recently started growing olives in places like California, Spain, Italy and Greece, and those oils are often cheaper.

I use EVOO for sauces and salad dressings, something cheaper for frying.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2004 at 8:54PM
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I pay about $11 for 68 oz of EVOO at Sam's....can't get much cheaper than that. Peanut oil for frying costs more!
Linda c

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 11:34AM
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I am not sure about the distinction, from a practical and functional viewpoint, between EVOO and just olive oil, but from what I have heard, olive oil has a much higher smoking point than other oils, which is one reason it is so widely used for cooking. At least all the TV chefs claim as much. I have found it invaluable for raising the smoking point when I saute in butter. A few drops of it added to the butter works like a charm to prevent the butter from burning.


    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 11:53AM
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Here is a list of some cooking oils and fats and their smoking points in Fahrenheit:

Unrefined Safflower, canola, sunflower oils 225°
Butter 300°
Unrefined walnut, corn, soybean, peanut oils 320°
Unrefined (cold-extracted) olive oil 320°
Vegetable shortening 325°
Lard. poultry fat 375°
Refined walnut, canola, grapeseed oils 400°
Refined olive and light sesame seed oils 410°
Cottonseed oil 420°
Refined peanut, corn, sunflower and soybean oil 450°
Refined safflower oil 510°
Avocado oil 520°

Most good olive oils are cold-pressed, and are therefore non-refined oils with a lower smoking point.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 4:17PM
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It's probably recommended because of the relatively high smoking point, which is true of olive oils in general, or when you want the oil flavor transfered.

I think the Olive Oil Institute is just saying that the most expensive oils with subtle flavors will be wasted on sauteing.

Personally, I only use olive oil over heat when I want the flavor transfered to the food, and prefer cheap, strong-flavored Spanish oil. E.g., I saute tofu in it - talk about needing flavor! - then finish with a thick wasabe-ginger sauce that forms a crust and seals in some of the oil.

For high temps and no flavor transfer, I prefer peanut oil.

We save the expensive olive oil with subtle flavors for cold uses, like salad or dipping.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 4:39PM
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Again, the more expensive olive oils will tend to be cold-extracted, so they will have a lower smoking point than a cheapo like Progresso. They're not much better for high-heat cooking than butter, and not as good as shortening or lard. A refined olive oil (where they have heated the olive paste to extract every drop) has a significantly higher smoking point, but they certainly lack the characteristic flavor of EVOOs.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 5:17PM
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Extra Virgin Islands???????

    Bookmark   December 18, 2004 at 12:03AM
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Olive oils, especially EVOO, have LOW smoke points. The posting shows is to be 320 F.

Generally, frying is done at higher temps than that, making olive oils NOT a good choice for frying, as the lower the frying temp, the more oil the product absorbs because the cooking time is longer. French fries are generally cooked at 375 F, as an example. Fries cooked completly at 300-320 F would be very, very greasy.

I only fry with EVOO (I also don't stock plain or Pomace olive oil) if I want the olive oil flavor in the dish. Even then, I generally use a mix of EVOO and canola oil.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 9:25AM
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I would never use olive oil for deep fat frying...but for frying an omelette or a few onions to top a burger, or browning some veggies for a sauce.
I use EVOO in much the same way I would use butter. Not for high heat frying, but for sauteeing and browning.
Linda C

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 10:28AM
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Thanks for the smoking point data, Spewey. I guess what the celebrity chefs should have said, for accuracy, is that "many oils have higher smoking points than butter and adding a little oil to your butter will raise the smoking point and prevent burning."


    Bookmark   December 24, 2004 at 2:52PM
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Per the original question, I think it is a matter of nomenclature -- Most recipes use saute and fry interchangeably and for that type of cooking olive oil is wonderful. I don't saute at high enough temperatures to break down olive oil.

Deep frying is an entirely different type of cooking and olive oil would never be used or recommended for that purpose -- low smoking point, high cost and non neutral flavor.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2004 at 8:13AM
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I'm curious as to which "Celebrity Chefs" are saying to Sautee with EVOO. EVOO is best used in Salads, as a dipping sauce for bread, or any application that uses little to no heat. The smoking point (which means the point at which it begins to burn) is lower than butter.

To clarify a bit, sautee is a method with very high heat and a small amount of oil, sautee literally means "to jump" which is what the food does when it is in the pan and being sauteed correctly. Frying involves mostly or totally surrounding the food and the oil becomes the medium for the heat, or in essence the oil becomes the cooking source.

So, having said that and seeing a lot of these replies it makes me think that some people are not actually using EVOO (which is technically not pressed at all, the natural weight of the olives provides the pressure for the pre-press that yields EVOO, cold weighted pressure is applied to create Virgin Olive Oil, and then extreme heat and pressure is applied to create Olive Oil) but are probably using either Virgin Olive Oil or straight Olive Oil.

So I guess a better answer to this question would be "Why in the world would you fry in EVOO". I guess a lot of people do, but a lot of people also think Starbucks Coffee is good.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2004 at 3:50AM
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Lots of recipes....and lots of cooks as well as chefs ( defined by me as those who are paid for cooking...I know line cooks who call themselves chefs because they have been schooled in cuilinary arts) saute/ fry in EVOO...
Emeril Legasse for one.
Where do you cook?
Linda C

    Bookmark   December 26, 2004 at 6:23PM
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I still contend that you are confusing Virgin Olive Oil, or straight Olive oil with EVOO. EVOO (Extra virgin Olive Oil is green in color and has a smoke point around 280ð, which is below butter, and which is below the temp that you would cook pancakes at).

I'm not saying that plenty of people don't use EVOO to cook with, I'm just saying that it burns at a point where they would be able to cook some things (most things). I compared it to Starbucks coffee, which is basically burnt, but people love it.

I'd be happy to provide you with a list of the places I've worked and the other Chef's that I have worked with if you will e-mail me. I don't feel it's neccesary to provide credentials to prove basic scientific facts that anyone can look up.

For the record a line cook is not a chef (unless they were a Chef at some point and are returning to the line for whatever reason), simply attending culinary school does not make you a chef. The ACF provides very strict guildelines for defining who is and who is not a chef. Most people don't even know what the ACF is, and for them the definition of a chef is the person who designs the menus and recipes for a foodservice establishment and is in charge of the kitchen and it's staff.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2004 at 1:07PM
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ChefDBA - What's your source for the smoking point of EVOO.

A web search turned up quite a range of temperatures, from below 300 F to 428 F, all for extra virgin olive oil. The site below gave the highest, and follows it with a article that questions that rating. Another site gives two smoking points for EVOO.

No wonder chefs, cooks and virgin islanders are confused.

Here is a link that might be useful: smoking point

    Bookmark   December 27, 2004 at 4:08PM
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I'm with ChefDBA on this all the way. What waved a red flag at me was the mention of "I pay about $11 for 68 oz of EVOO at Sam's". Legit EVOO should cost close to that for a quart, not a gallon-plus.

Okay, I'm watching Rachael Ray last night. She uses EVOO all the time, or at least that's what she calls it. Admittedly, I haven't tried every EVOO the Italians press, but all of those I've seen were decidedly green in color. Whatever she was calling EVOO was a pale yellow, not at all green. It sure looked like plain, old, last-pressing, garden-variety, regular olive oil to me.

And ChefDBA is right about another thing; being paid to cook doesn't make you a chef. Never has, doesn't now, never will. I'd be honored to carry the title of chef, which I know comes after a lot of hard, hard, work. Cheers to all!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2004 at 2:08PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Sween, does Rachel saute or deep fry? I watch her all the time and she does saute a lot with evoo. I don't recall seeing her deep fry but I'm not taking notes either. I don't think she would deep fry with evoo.
The evoo I use on a daily basis is fairly yellow. It's a spanish oil.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2004 at 6:23PM
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Check your math Sween....68 oz is about 2 quarts....and for $11 something, pleanty cheap...but then so are a lot of other things at Sam's...like Bombay gin and basamati rice. Buying in quantity tends to reduce the price per oz or per item.....this same oil costs a lot more by the 8 oz bottle at the grocery store.
Yes...it IS EVOO....green and fruity. They have several brands at about the same price. The bottle I currently have is Bertoli...it gets pretty firm and cloudy at refrigerator temps. I bought it to make a boat load of pesto ( incidentally using Parmaganio Reggiano I bought at Sams for about $12 a pound) and found I liked it a lot.
Incidentally I also know my way around a kitchen....and spent a lot of years feeding my family dinner like they might eat at a fine resturaunt on a daily basis.
Ever been to a fancy food show? The display of olive oils is amazing, displayed in footed wine glasses, with a dish and bread cubes for sampling....and about every color of yellow, amber, green and olive....all of them very pricey EVOOs. There are the Greeks, and the Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, Isralis etc....all with their tables set out showing their oils.
Olive oil is rather like wine....experts can tell where and when the fruit was grown.....and price doesn't always equate with the best taste.
And I fry things in EVOO....as well as in butter....and a mix of the two......and unless I get a phone call and am distracted, things sautee well and never burn!
Linda C

    Bookmark   December 29, 2004 at 11:55PM
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spewey said, "As I understand it, the Extra Virgin Islands are much smaller than the U.S. Virgin Islands, so consequently the price of the olive oil is much higher plus you pay a tariff. They've recently started growing olives in places like California, Spain, Italy and Greece, and those oils are often cheaper".

Got any more of that stuff you are smoking. EVO is not from an island. LMAO!

    Bookmark   December 30, 2004 at 4:36PM
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EVO is not from an island.

Tell that to the Sicilians, who also produce EVOO.

Here is a link that might be useful: Olio Extra Vergine d'Oliva di Sambuca di Siciliana

    Bookmark   December 30, 2004 at 11:05PM
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"Extra Virgin Islands" -- It's a joke, right? I thought it was funny.

I like grape seed oil for cooking because of its low burning point. I also like the light, non-virgin olive oil for frying eggs & sauteeing vegetables.

I like the EVOO in salads where I can appreciate the flavor.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2005 at 9:01PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I've come across Spewey's humor before...clever...and funny!

    Bookmark   January 6, 2005 at 4:22PM
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