Can I cook With Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I hear it all the time, "doesn't extra virgin olive oil have a low smoke point"? Or some mention the fact that they like a neutral flavored oil when cooking, so as not to add any flavor, they just want the taste of food. 

 Lets try and set some facts straight before we go down the road of why EVOO is the BEST thing to cook with. First, The smoke point debate is a very heated debate (no pun intended) even at the temperature that it does start to smoke. Before that, we need to establish what is the smoke point of quality evoo, and at what temperature does most cooking happen at. Most cooking happens at about 350 degrees  Fahrenheit. Most quality Evoo is chockful of Polyphenols, which would easily allow for a  temperature of 410 at a MINIMUM. So right there is pretty much a non issue in regards to smoke point. Here is where it gets tricky. I sear with EVOO despite the fact that I am increasing the temp closer to 500, which is well above the standard smoke point. Does it smoke? Absolutely, but I have found that canola, vegetable, etc will also start to smoke at higher temps. Now the big question is, what does all the smoke mean? Numerous scientific Journals have been printed in recent years, debating the very existence of the smoke point being harmful to the oil. What is actually happening when oil smokes? There lies the majority of the debate, as many are now starting to learn that the chemical compound that are changed in EVOO do not necessarily mean an oil is now losing its stability. The conversation is ongoing and gets real technical so we will leave it here with a link to learn about this matter further. 

As far as taste being an issue this too is mostly an easy part to sidestep. Suppose you really do not like the flavor your evoo adds to your cooking. or maybe you just want a "neutral" oil that neither adds nor subtracts the from the food you are baking/cooking. The simple way would be pre heating the oil. When you cook, make sure you add the oil to a hot pan for a few minutes before the food is added. Once the oil is heated, the aromas are released. and the longer this goes on the more flavor will come out. You can actually smell it right at the start the strong oil flavor, but a after a few minutes there will be little flavor left. Heat is a n enemy of oil after all. The other option which I highly recommend is to just get used to it. EVOO is a great tasting item. It adds to so many different food we put it on, having it your sautéed veggies of fried chicken will just bring an added depth of flavor. Is it what you always are used to ? Not necessarily but it is worth getting used too. After all it is healthier too!

Raphael Bondi 

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