Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Not Suitable For High Heat Cooking

In today’s kitchen one can almost always find a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. With its subtle nutty flavor, home cooks these days love to use this oil when making salad dressing, lightly sauteing vegetables, and sometimes even in baking as a substitute for butter. However, how does this oil fare in recipes that call for moderate or high heat cooking? 

Because of its high percentage of monounsaturated fats, olive oil will smoke quite easily at any temperature over 370 degrees Fahrenheit. This roughly translates to cooking above “medium” or “medium high” heat on the stove top. When an oil smokes, it is actually breaking down the glycol, or sugar, compounds which are the molecular backbones of free fatty acids, or triglycerides. This will also result in a burned taste and smell. Therefore, not only will allowing an oil to smoke have the consequence of changing the flavor of the oil, but it will also change the molecular makeup of the oil as well. This may result in changing the nutrition or health benefits too. 

Traditional Indian recipes have found a way around the smoke point problem by cooking with ghee for all recipes that require high heat. Ghee has a smoke point of around 485 degrees Fahrenheit, or an equivalent of “very high” or “high” heat on a stove top, which makes it suitable for all of your cooking needs, even deep frying. This high smoke point insures that both the subtle flavor and the molecular makeup of ghee will remain stable throughout cooking, which will ultimately add to the nutrition and flavor of the final dish. 

An added benefit of cooking with ghee is the additional nutrients and fat-soluble vitamins that you may not get if cooking with an oil that has a lower smoke point, such as olive oil. The high percentage of saturated fat that ghee has is not only what makes it suitable for high heat cooking, but is also what aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Since ghee will solidify at room temperature, it is also much more shelf-stable than olive oil and does not require any refrigeration. In fact we estimate that properly stored ghee will last approximately 9 months without any refrigeration from the date of purchase, while experts recommend that extra virgin olive oil will need to be refrigerated in order to prevent rancidity. 

In the future, please remember to consider the smoke points of any oil that you will be cooking with. If ever in doubt, please know that ghee will maintain its flavor and nutritional content even while cooking at high heat and will also not go rancid if left without refrigeration for months after you have purchased it. For these reasons, ghee is our preferable oil to cook with! 

1 comment:

  1. No doubt Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a relatively lower smoke point of 180° C. However, Extra Virgin is only one grade of Olive Oil. Olive Oil (also called Pure Olive Oil) and Olive Pomace Oil have smoking points of 220°C and 238°C, respectively. Pomace is higher than other edible oils like Sunflower-226°C, Safflower- 232°C, Soybean- 232°C, Rice Bran Oil- 237°C, etc.) and is best suited for the high-heat cooking and frying common in Indian kitchens. It is also half the price of Extra Virgin and neutral in flavor. Olive Oil contains 73% monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), which is highest level as compared to other oils. This aids in improving blood cholesterol & insulin levels and blood sugar control. It is also known to be loaded with antioxidants in the form of polyphenols and tocopherols, including Vitamins A, D, E, K and B-carotene. Olive Oil is therefore an excellent choice for cooking in the Indian kitchen – just choose the right grade!