I can’t tell you how much joy it brings my heart to find a quality company with actual, reasonable, high-quality customer service. It’s also great if they sell a quality product that I need at a price that beats the grocery store. Today I get to share good news with you about just such a company…and confusing news about olive oil!! Read on, if you dare…
I have been searching and searching for some answers about olive oil, virgin and extra virgin, and I wish I had something good to share…but the more I learn, the more I find conflicting information.
I emailed a couple websites and browsed others, only to get a yes and a no on the same question. *raspberries* to that!
Nonetheless, we might as well trudge through the jungle of information together. I wrote a post on How to Buy, Use and Store Olive Oil: Some Precautions when we looked at EVOO as a Super Food. I was left unimpressed with what I found and felt there were still more questions to be asked. The discussion in the comments at this post at Kelly the Kitchen Kop inspired me to keep looking. Here are the questions to which I’m looking for answers:
- Is it Safe to Saute with Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
- Is it Safe to Roast Vegetables with Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
- What Happens to EVOO when Heated?
- Can I Bake (Bread, etc.) with Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Safe Under Heat?
California Olive Ranch actually wrote a whole series of posts to answer my questions. You can find them here and here so far. They give an unequivocal yes to all heating with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I don’t know that I’m convinced, though, because I have to run the source through my “smart-media filter” and remember that they’re trying to sell a product.
I strongly disagree with some of the info in the first post, because one expert says that heating an oil to its smoke point is “not harmful, per se,” whereas my research tells me that hitting the smoke point oxidizes the oil, creates free radicals, and can damage your system working to cause cancer, heart disease, yadda yadda. Not exactly what I’d call “not harmful”. I feel like their experts are mostly focusing on flavor, where I want to know about my health.
I did appreciate this breakdown (from the second post) when considering roasting potatoes with EVOO:
The temperature of the oven or stove top is not the same as the temperature of the food being cooked. For instance when you roast a turkey in an oven set at 325 degrees F, the heat does not make the turkey also 325 degrees. Instead you roast the turkey at 325 degrees until it reaches the temperature of 165 degrees (or so).
However – the 165 is internal temp. What happens to the oil on the OUTside of my potatoes? More research needed!
George at World’s Healthiest Foods (a site I go to again and again for nutritional information) writes:
If you want to use olive oil for cooking, we agree not to use extra virgin olive oil as it has a lower smoke point than others. We’d use virgin oil, depending upon the temperature. We use extra virgin olive oil in cold dishes, so that its fatty acids and antioxidants aren’t destroyed.
And because I forgot I got a reply, I emailed again and received an even better response:
Until we see studies indicating otherwise, we will choose to play it safe when it comes to heating extra virgin olive oil. The phenolic antioxidants that they feature are simply too important to risk potential damage through unnecessary heating. The 200-250 F (93-121 C) temperature range is the one we feel safest with when it comes to the heating of extra virgin olive oil and protection of its phenols. This temperature range will work well for making sauce or for the warming of a dish that has extra virgin olive oil added just before this warming stage (but not during the actual cooking or baking process).
And from the Weston A. Price Foundation site:
Those fats and oils that are appropriate for cooking or sautéing and will withstand fairly high temperatures are those that have been in use for thousands of years, including olive oil as well as the more stable saturated coconut and palm oils and the animal tallows. An oil such as sesame oil with its special heat-activated antioxidants can be blended with coconut oil and olive oil to form a very stable good cooking oil.
Huh? So now EVOO is the best for sauteeing? I’m lost!
UPDATE 8/24/09: From Dr. Diana Schwarzbein, The Schwarzbein Principle: “Yes, you can saute in EVOO as long as the olive oil used to cook with is not already rancid and the temperature of cooking doesn’t exceed the smoke point of 375. Which I don’t think should when you saute!
If you exceed this temp than the fatty acids begin to degrade and that is when oxidation occurs. If the oil is rancid then the fatty acids have already degraded, so it shouldn’t be used in any case.”
So I ask another question: Are There Still Health Benefits to Virgin Olive Oil (and is that a better choice for heat)?
Virgin Olive Oil and Cooking
World’s Healthiest Foods says this:
A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition indicates that virgin olive oil provides significantly greater protection against free radical damage to LDL cholesterol-one of the first steps in the initiation of atherosclerosis.
Now I consider: I’m reading that virgin olive oil has some health benefits. I understand that extra virgin may be sketchy at best at high heat, and I’m not always so good at watching my sauteeing closely. Virgin olive oil has a higher smoke point (420 vs. 375, according to Wikipedia), so it seems that it would be safer to use in cooking and roasting. I can roast some Yum-O potatoes at 400 and feel safe. Right?
This is an awful lot of information to digest for one night. I’m going to make part two of the Olive Oil Update the part where I get to share my new oil source company and more information from their chemist, who was kind enough to answer my emails very thoroughly (just one of the reasons I like this company!). Come on back tomorrow for my entry in The Nourishing Gourmet’s Pennywise Platter Thursday: A Good Deal on Top Fats (Or, Why I have 63 Pounds of Coconut and Olive Oil on my Porch).
For now, somebody should tell Rachel Ray to quit sauteeing in EVOO, don’t you think?
And a request for you: next week I’m posting on healthy school lunches. Any ideas or favorite tips and tricks to packing truly nourishing school lunches, preferably without (a) breaking the bank or (b) taking all day? Thanks for your help!
Other interesting posts:
If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.