Questions about olive oil smoking points

Posted by Al Pryzbylski on January 27, 2012 0 Comments


Alot of questions come to us about the ability to take olive oils up over 300 degrees in cooking applications.
This can be a complicated question to answer depending on the products you are using. Supermarket olive oil, labeled as “extra virgin olive oil”, which is not adulterated with refined oil, but is of a typical poor quality as a result of lax processing standards, age, UV light exposure, and poor handling tends to be highly oxidized and / or shows signs of rancidity by the time the consumer purchases it.  Highly oxidized or rancid olive oil lacks the protective chemistry that would otherwise allow for tolerance to higher temperatures before reaching the smoke point.
Fresh extra virgin olive oil of superior quality - boasting exceptional chemistry, i.e. high oleic acid content, very low FFA (free fatty acids), and robust phenol count, can be heated to greater temperatures before reaching the smoke point, (reaching this point is undesirable for any oil used in cooking).  So the answer is that the smoke point of an extra virgin olive oil will depend on its unique characteristics.  If you are looking to heat extra virgin olive oil up to 400+ degrees, pay close attention to the chemical make-up of and choose one that is very fresh and chemically robust. 

Studies which claim that all extra virgin olive oils have a smoke point of 300 degrees, while ignoring variable factors such as chemistry and freshness are simply not accurate.  It is our assumption that such studies are conducted with a poor quality “extra virgin olive oil”, past prime and lacking the chemical fortitude necessary for durability while cooking at higher temperatures.          

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