The great myths of olive oil: We shouldn’t cook in olive oil

Surely you have heard that cooking with olive oil is not safe or even dangerous, but here we tell you the truth about this myth that cannot be further from the truth, and that has only caused damage and confusion to olive oil producers and consumers around the world.

By Cécile Le Galliard

Today we’re going to look at a controversial subject, a belief, an archaic misconception when we talk about olive oil and especially extra virgin olive oil:

Let us look at the myth that we cannot cook or fry with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

We're told that EVVO is too expensive, that the taste is too strong and that the smoke point is too low and so dangerous, that we should use olive only for salads.

Can we cook with extra virgin olive oil? Is it safe frying with EVOO?

Is olive oil taste really too strong for frying and making desserts?

We’d all like to make healthy options; we’d like to know what happens when extra virgin olive oil is heated and also to know if the oil loses its properties on cooking.

What about the other oils such as coconut sunflower oil, soybean oil, refined oils? Are they more suitable for cooking?

To answer these questions, let's see what the professionals say and look at the various proven studies published in scientific journals. The good news is that they all show that it is safe to cook and fry with olive oil and more especially with extra virgin olive oil!


Frying is a cooking method where food is dipped in hot oil and cooked quickly to have a crispy coating.

Frying in olive oil is a cooking method common to all the Mediterranean countries. Cooking at 180º is the ideal temperature for frying. Different oils have different smoke points – exceeding the smoke point results in the oil becoming toxic. The smoke point for extra virgin olive oil is 191ºC. Wikipedia on smoke points

Olive oil is rich in oleic acid, the primary fatty acid, which is part of the MFAs (Monounsaturated Fatty Acids) and gives it part of its stability when heated. Heating or refining does not alter this property.

OMEGA 3 rich oils are susceptible to heat, and OMEGA 6 rich oils should be limited because they are pro-inflammatory when consumed in excess (compared to the ratio one omega 3 for five omega 6, we are well above it in our Western Society. OMEGA 9 -in addition to being stable, is a good alternative for cooking with butter or oils rich in Omega 3 or 6.


Extra virgin olive oil is the primary source of fat in the Mediterranean diet and has a unique composition of fatty acids with higher antioxidant content than other edible oils. Extra virgin olive oil also contains vitamin E and other antioxidants. These substances are destroyed at very high temperatures, such as during oil refining or repeated frying, but they are relatively resistant to pan-frying. When you buy extra virgin olive oil, you don't immediately think of making French fries with it. However, new studies show the contrary. Here are some ways to better understand why olive oil (and extra virgin olive oil) can be used for frying.



Studies carried out at the University of Granada (Spain) showed that frying in extra virgin olive oil allows antioxidants present in the oil to be transferred to the food.

Using four Mediterranean vegetables, and under controlled frying conditions (temperatures, oil quality, and the number of frying times), the fried food was found to have a higher caloric content. Also interesting to note is that the nutritional value was increased by the number of antioxidants present in the oil.

Researchers at the University of Granada in Spain have recently demonstrated that frying in extra virgin olive oil as a cooking technique for vegetables increases the amount of polyphenols, those powerful natural healthy antioxidants. According to the results obtained in this doctoral thesis, frying in extra virgin olive oil is the culinary technique that produces the most significant increase in polyphenols in cooked foods.

Polyphenols have many benefits for our health and have a role in the treatment and prevention of chronic diseases such as certain cancers, inflammatory, cardiovascular, and neurodegenerative diseases. The study: "Freír con aceite de oliva virgen incrementa los niveles de antioxidantes de los alimentos". Doctoral thesis by Jessica del Pilar Ramírez under the supervision of Doctors Cristina Samaniego Sánchez, Marina Villalón Mir y Herminia López-García de la Serrana, in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Granada.


Research from the University of Barcelona showed that extra virgin olive oil maintains healthy antioxidant levels when used in stir-fry cooking, a common technique in Mediterranean cuisine.

For this study, the researchers simulated the cooking conditions of a home kitchen. The aim was to determine how homemade stir-frying affects the polyphenols in extra virgin oil. They wanted to see how time - for both short and long periods - and temperature - at 120°C and 170°C – affected the degradation of antioxidants.

The results show that during cooking, the content of phenolic compounds decreased by 40% at 120°C and 75% at 170°C, compared to the levels of antioxidants in the raw product. On the other hand, the cooking time had an effect on individual phenols, such as hydroxytyrosol, but not on the total phenol content. Antioxidant levels continue to meet the parameters that the European Union considers healthy: "Despite the decrease in the total concentration of phenolic compounds during cooking, this oil has a level of polyphenols that reaches the health claim according to European regulations, which implies that it has properties that protect LDL cholesterol particles from oxidation", says Julián Lozano, the main author of the publication, which is part of his doctoral thesis. The study: Domestic Sautéing with EVOO: Change in the Phenolic Profile.


Researchers from the "Innovation in Chemical Analysis» a group of the University of Jaén, in collaboration with the Laboratory of Food Science and Hydrology of the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Porto, demonstrated that extra virgin olive oil has a higher resistance to the frying process than other oils on the market.

The study analyzed the thermal oxidation process of extra virgin olive oil, cocoa, canola -a type of rapeseed-, and the thermal oxidation process of olive oil.

Following a comparative study between several vegetable fats during the frying process, the scientists deduced that the large numbers of antioxidants present in HOVE was due to certain factors: the oil degrades less and more slowly than other oil and is more stable thus producing fewer toxic compounds.

The study: Los beneficios de freír con aceite de oliva virgen extra


It is a widely held belief that frying food in vegetable oil can be unhealthy because of the toxic chemicals (called aldehydes) that occur during the process. Aldehydes are organic compounds containing a carbon-oxygen double bond, formed naturally in small amounts

in the body. Too many aldehydes can contribute to the symptoms of diseases such as diabetes.

Researchers at the University of the Basque Country in Spain compared the aldehyde content of olive oil, sunflower oil and linseed oil after heating them at 190 ℃. The results showed that polyunsaturated oils (sunflower and linseed oils ) produced higher amounts of aldehydes faster than monounsaturated oil (olive). The study: Researchers Conclude Frying With Olive Oil Is Safe


Australian researchers found that compared with olive oil, extra virgin olive oil is the safest and most stable oil even when used at high temperatures, thus dispelling a common myth about cooking with olive oil.

When cooking oils are exposed to heat, degradation of the oil occurs, and by-products are produced (free fatty acids, oxidation-related by-products, polar compounds). Some of these degradation by-products have adverse health effects. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the correlation between the smoke point of oil and other chemical characteristics associated with stability/safety during cooking. The analysis was conducted in an ISO17025 accredited laboratory where the different oils were heated to 240ºC and exposed to 180oC for 6 hours. The extra virgin olive oil gave low levels of oxidation-related by-products as opposed to the high levels generated for oils such as canola oil.

The lipid profile of extra virgin olive oil and its natural antioxidant content allowed the oil to remain stable when heated (unlike oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which degrade more quickly). This study reveals that under the conditions used in the study, the smoke point is not the best parameter to measure the oil's performance when heated. Oxidative stability and UV coefficients are better criteria when combined with the total PUFA level. Of all the oils tested, HOVE proved to be the oil that produced the lowest level of polar compounds after being heated, followed closely by coconut oil. The Study: Evaluation of Chemical and Physical Changes in Different Commercial Oils during Heating


  1. What does "frying well" mean? Check the number of times you use the oil (10-12 times maximum), observe the cooking temperature (180ºc), and the quality of the oil used (below).

  2. Oils rich in omega-3 cannot withstand heat and are therefore used cold. We should limit our consumption of Omega-6. It causes inflammation and saturated fatty acids (animal fats, palm, soy, and coconut!) in our arteries. CF. Butter is bad for your health.

  3. We should limit or even eliminate soybean oil, palm oil, hydrogenated oils (trans fatty acids) for our health, and our planet.

  4. Be aware! Frying increases the caloric value of food. Moderate consumption of fried food is safe, but moderation is the guideline.

  5. Oil that smokes is toxic oil, which can cause the formation of carcinogenic compounds.

  6. Immerse the food when the oil is very hot (so that a crust forms and the oil penetrates less).

  7. Just as there is no single oil, there is no single price per litre. For example, there is no need to use the most expensive oil to make acras.

  8. Once cooked, leave the food on absorbent paper to remove excess oil.

  9. We often talk about the strong taste of olive oil for cooking. There are several types of oil, with different varieties, with varying intensities, or structure. You can opt for light ripe fruit with mild intensity of the fruitness for cooking or frying.

  10. Buy virgin olive oils or virgin vegetable oils; refined oils are the product of VERY chemical processes.


When we fry, a large part of the oil is absorbed by the food we cook, that's why it's essential to choose the right cooking oil.

I read quite recently an interesting observation on the blog explaining the importance of choosing a good EVOO when cooking and frying.

"It is true that if we are going to burn the oil, it may not matter to us what quality oil we buy, but we must not forget that what we cook absorbs a large part of the oil.

For example, look at the label on a bag of potato chips: about 30% of its weight comes directly from the oil used for frying. In other words, for every 100 grams of potatoes, 30 grams of fat are needed. So if we use "low grade" oil for frying, that's the amount we consume even though we don't notice it when we taste the chips."

Classic Potato chips Nutrition Facts. Fat/ 10g for 15 chips (28 g)

[Sources ] The original article in French from

Les grands mythes de l’huile d’olive : On ne cuit pas à l’huile d’olive

Traduction in English Alice Alech

About the author : Cécile Le Galliard (France) had a course of the University of Jaén (Spain), she works as a consultant, she organizes tastings and training courses and select oils for Maison Brémond 1830. She writes and shares news about olive oil on the website and she is the author of the book Seven Wonders of Olive Oil with Alice Alech.

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