Can I cook with Olive Oil? Smoke Point explained

Can I cook with Olive Oil?  Yes, but remember: not all olive oil is created equally.

Excellent article on the SCIENCE (not the myths) of cooking with olive oil:


Smoke Point Of Olive Oil

The smoke point of any edible oil is the temperature at which, when cooking, the oil starts to smoke (which is not healthy for you or the oil).  The smoke point in cooking oils depends a lot on the free fatty acidity (FFA or acidity) of the oil. The lower the FFA (called acidity but doesn’t taste acid at all)  the higher the smoke point.

All refined oils such as canola, vegetable, grapeseed, some coconut, sunflower, peanut, flaxseed, rice bran etc etc have pretty well close to zero acidity as the refining process removes all of the free fatty acids.‘Pure olive oil’, ‘Light olive oil’ and ‘Olive oil’ are also refined.  The refining process also removes most health benefits associated with the raw seeds.

On the other hand, Extra virgin olive oil is a natural UNREFINED product and as such its acidity varies greatly from brand to brand. Some carefully made artisan oils have acidities as low as 0.1%, but an excellent EVOO will typically come in around 0.2 to 0.3%. All our UP certified oils are .3% or lower.  However, your typical inexpensive supermarket extra virgin olive oil from the EU will probably be around 0.6 or 7% acidity with some even nudging the comical International Olive Council limit of 0.8%. These seemingly small differences in acidities actually have a significant influence on the temperature at which the oil will begin to smoke.

The following diagram shows the influence of FFA on the smoke point of an extra virgin olive oil. The green band shows the smoke point range of good quality low acidity extra virgin olive oil. The reddish band shows the smoke point of lower quality high acidity oils. In health terms, these real differences are huge!




The bottom line: a fresh, high quality olive oil with an FFA of less than .3 has a smoke point of about 425 degrees and is an excellent cooking choice.