It’s true that olive oil is high in fat, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t healthy. Olive oil is full of monounsaturated fatty acids, which are the healthy kind of fats. Add that to olive oil’s high content of antioxidants, its anti-inflammatory effects, and its link to lowering the risk or stroke and heart disease, and it becomes easier to see why it’s such a popular staple in so many people’s kitchens. Some of the world’s healthiest populations, like Italians, live for olive oil in their diet.
Yet there are rumors out there that olive oil is not safe for cooking. Luckily, that’s not entirely true. It turns out it is safe for cooking in the right conditions. In order to get the most out of your olive oil — both in terms of health and in flavor — you have to use it correctly. Take a look at this list to make sure you’re treating your olive oil the right way.
Watch The Temperature
Unless you’re looking for a smoky flavor, always keep olive oil under its smoke point when cooking with it. Every type of olive oil has a unique smoking point, meaning the temperature where it begins to smoke. That means extra virgin has a different smoking point than virgin than pure than light olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil’s smoke point is the lowest, and thus the least recommended for cooking. By keeping olive oil under its smoke point, it retains its beneficial nutrients and desired flavor.
That being said, there is a caveat. Some have said that olive oil can be vulnerable to damage at high heat, causing it to oxidize and release carcinogenic compounds which can cause lung cancer. While that is true of other oils, olive oil is different. Its high concentration of monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and vitamin E keeps it safe from that kind of oxidative damage.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Is Overused
It’s tempting to always reach for the EVOO, but sometimes, it’s just not the best option. Experts tend to say that EVOO is best reserved for cold dishes due to its distinctive flavor that you likely don’t want to mask. Regular virgin olive oil is better for pan-frying, roasting, and baking, as it doesn’t have as strong of a flavor and also has a higher smoke point.
Especially when deep frying, EVOO is considered to be a poor choice. First of all, you’ll need so much of it, and it’s not particularly easy on the pocketbook. Also, it starts to become unstable above 374 degrees Fahrenheit, and deep frying generally requires a bit more heat than that. Best to use other oils for deep frying, in other words.
Store It Properly
Keeping olive oil too close to the stove may be convenient, but it’s not good for it. Exposing olive oil to light, oxygen, and heat causes it to change, losing quality and altering the flavor to something closet to vinegar. Ideally, olive oil is stored in a dark place and away from heat and varying temperatures. That means you should put it in a cabinet far away from the stove.
Light Doesn’t Mean What You May Think It Means
When something is labeled “light,” the tendency is to think it is lower in calories and fat. Where olive oil is concerned, that is not what “light” means at all. However, people tend to use light olive oil heavy-handedly, pouring in much more than they normally would because they are assuming light means healthier.
The reality is that light olive oil is lighter in flavor, but it isn’t actually healthier. It has the same amount of fat and calories as any olive oil. Therefore, overusing it in a recipe isn’t a responsible choice health-wise. A responsible choice would be using it for baking instead of olive oil with a more robust flavor to keep your cake from tasting like olives.