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: 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?
For now, somebody should tell Rachel Ray to quit sauteeing in EVOO, don’t you think? 😉
Katie’s Oil Buying Escapades
Why did I come home from vacation to 63 pounds of oil on my porch? I found the best deal possible on olive oil and coconut oil and shared it with friends. After all my research, conflicting information, and indecision, I’m still not sure if I made the right decision or not, but I went ahead and bought a gallon of olive oil from the third pressing of the olives (one below virgin, actually), to be used for cooking. It will have less nutrients than the EVOO, but I would destroy EVOO’s delicate antioxidants, Vitamin E, and phenols anyway by cooking with it, and the other stuff is less expensive. Why pay more for something you’re going to destroy? (UPDATE: After reading Local Nourishment‘s comments I’m certain I should just stick with coconut oil for cooking and EVOO for cold uses…so…anyone in my area want to purchase some olive oil for cooking? I’ve got lots! Getting tired of making bad food decisions, like the flax oil disaster. Someday I’ll get it all down and won’t have to think so hard when I buy food!)
For more on how to cook traditional foods and use traditional fats, see GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals.
Things I Love: Soaper’s Choice Oils
Now I get to share my new oil source company with you: Soaper’s Choice/Columbus Foods. (Click here to see their product list of bulk oils.) I told you yesterday that I just love finding a good company and it’s twice as nice to share them with my readers. I like them because:
- They offer great customer service. The “Director of Special Oils” spent at least 20 minutes on the phone with me answering my questions while I watched the kiddos play outside in the water table. He has also emailed back and forth enough to earn his keep!
- The Soaper’s Choice chemist/technical director also took the time to answer my litany of questions via email, and very thoroughly. See his thoughts below.
- Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil is $3.30/lb for a 7-pound bottle, $23.10 total.
- Olive Oil Refined A (what I bought, along with the EVOO) is even less, at $19.60 for 7 pounds…but I don’t think I would go with this again…
- Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil is $3.90/lb for a total of $27.30 for a 7-pound bottle.
- Refined Organic Coconut Oil (which I’ve decided to use in cooking and baking for the same reasons as the olive oil, after a discussion with Cheeseslave) is even less: $15.47 for the 7-pound jug. That’s less per pound than I pay for grass-fed butter!
- (See below for further info on the olive oils from Soaper’s Choice’s fact sheets.)
- Shipping is very reasonable. I paid around $12 for 5 bottles of oil, all 7-pounders, a few months ago, and about $22 for 9 bottles this week. (They ship in 4- or 6-bottle boxes, so it’s worth it to see if one more bottle wouldn’t up your shipping too much if you’re at 5 or 9 like me!)
- They ship FAST. Within two or three days, the boxes are on your porch. 🙂
- Note: 7 pounds of either of these oils comes in at about 7/8 of a gallon. You can see the line where the oil is and the 3-quart mark circled in this picture:
Yes, they come in plastic. Number 2, food grade, so I’m not that concerned. If you get the coconut oil and it’s solid when you receive it, just put the whole jug in your hot/warm dishwater at the end of the night, and it will quickly melt enough for you to pour off into glass jars. Or order in the summer and pour away!
Disclaimer: Soaper’s Choice is not paying me anything, nor did they give me free product. (I asked! They don’t need to do stuff like that, because word of mouth gets them plenty of business. The director of oils tells me that they do broad spectrum analysis and testing of all their oils and always have a high quality product, so people keep coming back. “People buy from us because we sell REAL oil.”)
Another note: Soaper’s Choice sells these oils for soap and lotion makers. They are food grade, though, and can be consumed by the tongue just as well as the skin! Don’t be thrown off by that part. 🙂
What’s Up With Coconut Oil?
I’m going to tell you all sorts of information about coconut oil and other fats in September and October as part of our “Fat-full Fall” at Kitchen Stewardship. For now, either you’re a believer or you’re not. (Here is the post on the health benefits of coconut oil and the debate.If you are trying to use more coconut oil (This is for you, Musings of a Housewife!) and aren’t sure where to start, here are some recipes you’ll enjoy:
- Homemade Biscuits
- Homemade Tortillas
- Whole Grain Cornbread
- Homemade Granola (for the oil)
- Kimi’s pancakes (I use buttermilk, raw milk, or yogurt for the coconut milk)
- Kelly’s Baked Oatmeal
- Stir into your oatmeal – adds a sweetness that allows me to reduce my sugar addition
- Fry french fries or potato chips in a skillet (I’ll have to post on these sometime – sooo yummy!)
- Add to smoothies (make sure it’s melted and blend it in FAST or it will clump up – yuck)
- I’ve been fairly successful in subbing coconut oil in any recipe that called for shortening (even frosting!), and for part or all of the butter in things like my granola bars and other baked goods.
- Stable at high(ish) heat for frying/sauteeing. I’ve even fried up these
turkey burgers(Link no longer available) in unrefined oil and never noticed a coconut flavor!
Olive Oil Statistics
The fact sheet sent to me by the company says this about the Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil:
It comes from the first pressing of the olive fruit minus the oil of the pit by a mechanical pressing operation. The pressing process does not involve heating, solvent extraction or any other chemical process. Organic Extra
Virgin Olive Oil is grown and extracted according to specific industry organic guidelines. This product is non-GMO and is considered non-allergenic.
Compared to the Refined A olive oil, which is “extracted from virgin olive oil”, all the nutritional and compositional facts are the same, including the smoke point, (???) with the exception of the free fatty acid content. The refined olive oil actually has 0.3% less free fatty acids than the extra virgin, possibly because of something Rick will explain in the next section. Phew. Anyone exhausted yet? (If you actually would like to see these data sheets, I’m happy to share. Just email me.)
UPDATE: I forgot to include in the original post that the EVOO is only supposed to be stored for 4-6 months in a cool place. Make sure you’re committed to using it quickly if you buy a whole gallon. If you make your own salad dressings, you go through it quickly. My first gallon was definitely gone before 6 months, but since I’m not using EVOO for cooking anymore, I split this gallon with a friend!
UPDATE 11/02/09: The more I see about EVOO and heat, the less I’m afraid of using it to saute a bit here and there. My half gallon went way too fast! This time I’m getting 2 gallons because I’m making salad dressings as Christmas gifts.
If you want to know even more about the science side of oils, virgin vs. refined, read on for the Soaper’s Choice chemist, Rick Cummisford’s, intel. But be warned: this is not something you should bother skimming. Put your thinking caps on! I’m just going to copy our conversation verbatim, so you can help me figure out everything he says!
Me and the Chemist: Discussion about Olive and Coconut Oils
1. Me: Regarding the olive oil refined – A: how do the nutrients remaining after refining compare to virgin olive oil? My research tells me that extra virgin has the most vitamin E, for example, but virgin has the greatest impact on heart health (and is safer to cook with because of its higher smoke point). What is the refining process – any chemicals? Would the oil be oxidized/damaged in any way? Feel free to get technical, I’d like to think of myself as an academe.
Rick: As an oil is processed such as refining you will lose some of the natural nutrients, such as Vitamin E, which does not hold up well when heated. But other nutrients do remain, such as the natural sterols that exist in the Olive oil do remain after processing.
The refining process removes particulates and other unwanted by-products in the oils. Also during this process, the extra virgin and virgin oils are often treated with a small concentration of caustic which neutralizes the free fatty acids that occur naturally. Filtration, centrifuging and other separation techniques.
No, during the processing of the oil, other than the loss of some of the natural antioxidants, the oil quality improves, by removing the the natural undesirable by-products in the oil. During refining the Free Fatty Acids, Peroxide values, color, odor, and flavor are reduced dramatically, yielding a consistent high quality product.
2. Me: I’d love to understand the chemistry behind what happens to damage oils under heat and pressure. Would I be correct in saying that if I’m going to saute something in olive oil, the heat I apply at home would ultimately reduce the nutrients/damage the oil just like the refining process would? (So it would make more sense to buy refined for cooking…)
Rick: Keep in mind the refining process is under a controlled environment, whereby the oil is not exposed to air and the temperatures are controlled. The refining process does not damage the oil, but the nutrient level when an oil is heated will be reduced. Sautéing is a very tough environment to apply to an oil, meaning you have high heat, in excess of 400oF, a very high concentration of air and moisture and other conditions, all of these play a role in breaking the oil and desirable components down rapidly.
3. Me: Regarding the RBD coconut oil (organic), what is the process for taking the smell and flavor out?
Rick: After the initial refining step, the oil will still have compounds present that can cause the oil to have dark color, and strong odor and flavor. Those two particular steps are called the Bleaching and Deodorization steps.
Bleaching step – the refined oil is mixed with a absorbent material, such as diatomaceous earth, which is a porous solid material that has the unique properties to attract and absorb many of these compounds that cause color and even flavor and odor. Then this material is removed by filtration.
Deodorization Step – still after the bleaching step some of the compounds that cause odor and flavor issues remain. Now the oil is heated up, put under a vacuum and steam is sparged through. this steam is immediately removed taking with it many of these undesirable compounds, resulting in fresh light colored, flavorless and odorless product.
My note: the coconut oil is organic, so it can’t have any chemicals added to it. Always a good thing.
Rick: I think once you get down to it, any olive oil you sauté with will under similar degradation and break down, so it wouldn’t matter which you would use for sautéing. I personally like the flavor that Extra Virgin adds to our dishes.
The only difference you may see is a little less smoke from the Refined A Olive oil, but probably not a significant amount unless you’re going to deep fry with it.
My thoughts on that: Again, I’m not looking at flavor alone, but health. So if there’s any smoke from the EVOO, I know there’s a problem with oxidation. I think. Then again, Rick is the chemist, and I’m the former-teacher-stay-at-home-mom. What do all of you foodies think?
Next up in fats: I always thought butter was very stable for sauteeing, but it turns out ghee or coconut oil is probably better! We’re always learning…learn more with me in “A Fat-Full Fall.”
I’m happy to participate in Pennywise Platter Thursday at The Nourishing Gourmet, Things I Love Thursday at The Diaper Diaries, Frugal Fridays at Life as MOM, Fearless Friday at Home Ec 101 and Finer Things Friday at The Finer Things in Life.
- Why use Olive Oil? Health Benefits of Monounsaturated Fats: Avocado, Peanut Butter and Olive Oil
- Buy Olive Oil well…the first edition: Olive Oil Primer
I am a guest lecturer and partner with GNOWFGLINS eCourses, so I will earn commission from any sales made starting here. Of course, the courses are also an awesome way to learn to cook real food, so I’d gab about them anyway.
Other interesting posts: