Olive oil is one of my favorite cooking oils to use for flavor and health benefits. Those who use our Prep Dish menus can confirm…we use it a lot! Whenever olive oil is brought up in social media circles it almost always ends in a debate over the smoke point of olive oil. The smoke point is how high you can heat an oil until it starts to smoke and degrade. In the U.S. people often believe that olive oil has a very low smoke point however, when you travel to Europe, especially Italy, Spain and Greece, they use olive oil exclusively in cooking. So how high can you really go? Depends on the olive oil.
Olive Oil Smoke Point
Extra virgin olive oils with low free fatty acids have a high smoke point. According to the Olive Oil Source.com you can heat extra virgin olive oil between 365 to 400 F, which falls right about med to med high on your stove top. That covers almost all of your stove top cooking techniques other than high heat frying. If you want to fry something on high heat it's best to use an oil like avocado oil that has a smoke point around 480F. The tricky part is the extra virgin olive oil sitting in your cabinet may not heat to a high temp and that depends entirely on the quality.
To figure out if you have a high quality olive oil look for the following:
1. Packaging. Olive oil should always be stored in a dark glass bottle away from sunlight.
2. Color. Extra virgin olive oil should be green/yellow in color and not pale and colorless.
3. Taste. Flavor should be somewhat grassy but the best test is if you feel a bit of a burn as it goes down your throat, like black pepper. That's a great sign you have a good quality oil! One of my favorites is Texas Hill Country Olive Company. I have toured their orchard multiple times and love knowing exactly what and where it is coming from.
When in doubt just use your eyes and nose! The smoke point isn't difficult to figure out, it truly means the oil starts smoking. If you see a cloud of smoke coming from your pan that also includes an off smell, you've heated it too high. Dump it and start over.