Americans love olive oil, yet a recent survey showed most users lack confidence in their knowledge about olive oils. One of the top persistent myths is that you can't or shouldn't cook with olive oil, but the fact is olive oil has more monounsaturated fat, the most stable of the healthy fats, than other oils.
Top reasons you can (and should) love olive oil for cooking:
Cooking oils are comprised of different kinds of fat and some fats are more stable than others. Saturated fat is the most stable, but lacks health benefits. Monounsaturated Fat (MUFA) is excellent when it comes to stability, and has documented health benefits too. Finally, Polyunsaturated Fat (PUFA) is the least stable, and PUFAs will break down more quickly over time and especially when heated. Consider this fat composition chart of common cooking oils - which would you choose?
To make a good thing even better, olive oils have antioxidants that further fend off oxygen and provide even greater stability over time and when heated. Extra virgin olive oils are produced without heat or chemicals and thus retain the most antioxidants. Olive oil will have antioxidants in varying amounts depending on how much virgin olive oil has been added to the refined olive oil. Olive oil’s stability is so good that you can even re-use it a few times for cooking (it will be best if you filter it after each use).
“But what about the smoke point? I heard olive oils have a low smoke point.” Actually, olive oil has smoke points that are comparable to common cooking oils. The ideal cooking/pan frying temperature is around 350⁰ Fahrenheit. The smoke point of extra virgin olive oil is between 350⁰ F and 410⁰ F. Since olive oil is primarily refined olive oil with some virgin olive oil added, the range is more consistent and higher, typically 390⁰ F to 470⁰ F. In both cases, the range is high enough for all kinds of cooking, including sautéing, grilling, shallow frying, roasting and baking.
Of course the most important reason to love olive oils for cooking is the final result - tasty food you can feel good about!