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How To Cook With Extra Virgin Olive Oil The Right Way

Extra virgin olive oil is my number one oil of choice and I use it in sauteing and frying -- and I eat it raw.

olive oil on water

Photo: ReneS (Flickr)

Cooking with extra virgin olive oil can be tricky. Here are five points to remember.

Cooking A Family Tradition

One of the most confusing suggestions I’ve seen within the real food and health communities is the explanation on how to use extra virgin olive oil. Many people suggest you only use extra virgin olive oil raw or slightly heated, drizzled on vegetables, to finish off dishes or for making vinaigrettes for salads.

Since I come from a traditional Spanish family, this has been slightly difficult to stomach considering my family has used extra virgin olive oil in all of their cooking for generations — I’m referring to thousands of years of cooking

It’s my number one oil of choice and I use it in sauteing and frying — and I eat it raw.

Smoke Signals

The issue concerns the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil, the temperature at which olive oil burns, turns rancid and, in turn, lets out free radicals which act as carcinogens.

Yes, it is true: extra virgin olive oil does not have as high a smoke point as lard or coconut oil. However, do we ever truly reach its smoke point when cooking with it? For instance, did I reach the smoke point while frying potatoes and eggs?

Not even close.

Five Points To Cook By

This was such a fun experiment for me. It tested how high of a temperature olive oil comes to when cooking main staples of a typical Spanish and Mediterranean diet.

Here are the conclusions I came to:

  1. The quality of the extra virgin olive oil is important.
  2. Never use extra virgin olive oil for dishes such as deep fat fried chicken. Instead use lard.
  3. Whenever you cook with olive oil (or any kind of oil) raise the temperature of your oil gradually. Never heat your oil at high heat or it will burn.
  4. When raising the temperature of the olive oil gradually, how do you know when it’s ready to cook with? A trick they use in Spain is tossing a hunk of bread into the oil. When the bread starts to sizzle and brown, you know your oil is heated to the point where you can now cook with it.
  5. Never raise the temperature past 375F when using extra virgin olive oil.
Diana Bauman

Diana Bauman created A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa to preserve her family's traditional Spanish recipes. She is an advocate of our local foods movement and spends her time urban homesteading and blogging about whole (REAL) foods.

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