The health benefits of olive oil make it one of the best ingredients to use for cooking. Packed with polyphenols, amino acids and healthy, monounsaturated fats, olive oil can be a key factor to not only establishing a balanced diet, but to adding depth and flavor to food.
Olive oil is not just another cooking oil, it’s aroma and taste cannot be matched by refined vegetable oils. No other oil can match the organoleptic complexity of olive oil and the thousands of varieties each carry unique flavor characteristics.
At The Olive Crush, all of our oils are extra virgin – the highest grade of olive oil. With this guide, you’ll learn different ways to integrate olive oil in your cooking, frying, and even baking.
Frying with Olive Oil
True or False? Applying heat to olive oil in cooking applications such as frying and deep frying, stir-frying, or sauteing, should be avoided.
Heating extra virgin olive oil to frying temperature does not hurt or substantially alter the chemical composition of the oil if kept below the smoke point. EVOO still retains it’s health benefits when frying due to their polyphenol content, and high levels of oleic acid which are very stable and do not easily oxidize.
Alternatively, canola, soybean and corn oils are significantly less stable and contain little to zero polyphenols. These oils can break down into dangerous, toxic byproducts at high temperatures due to accelerated oxidation. Olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oil are the most stable of all fats when heated.
The smoke point of a true extra virgin olive oil is 410°F, well above the 350-375°F that is required for most frying. If the olive oil is higher in acidity and/or contains impurities (often representative of lower grade, mass-produced oils), the smoke point can lower by 50°F. Because of this you should always fry foods with a high-quality olive oil and should avoid mixing it with other types of oils.
To properly fry with extra virgin olive oil without destabilization, first heat the oil in a heavy pot or pan to the suggested temperature by using an oil thermometer (sometimes called deep fry thermometer). Starting at the burner’s medium setting will allow you to raise it little-by-little until you achieve the right temperature. Adding the food to the pot or pan after the oil is fully heated will prevent it from absorbing too much oil and becoming soggy.
Deep Frying Tip: Though the added flavor will be best when frying the first time, re-using a large pot of olive oil 4-5 times is still a safe and flavorful (and not to mention cost-effective) method if doing so within a short timeframe and if properly strained after each use.
Frying with olive oil has been a standard practice in the Mediterranean diet for centuries. Try shallow frying eggs, sliced potatoes, or fish in EVOO and be amazed with the tasty results!
Baking with Olive Oil
When a recipe calls for butter or margarine for frying or sauteing, olive oil is an easy and accepted substitute and is widely recognized as a much healthier alternative. But did you know that olive oil is also an excellent substitute for butter and margarine in baking?
Using extra virgin olive oil instead of butter or margarine in baking is a healthier option and can be surprisingly tasty! Olive oil is not a 1:1 substitute for butter or margarine so refer to conversion chart below:
One should do a little research before throwing just any olive oil in a baking recipe. Extra virgin olive oils range in strengths of intensity and pungency, so while some varieties work wonderfully with almost anything, others may prove to be too overpowering.
For cakes, cookies and other baked desserts, we recommend sweeter, more mild olive oil varieties.
They are less likely to overpower the flavors of a dessert when compared with more bitter, pungent varieties like Picual or Coratina.
Grilling With Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil has endless potential to boost the flavor of grilled foods and can help to neutralize harmful carcinogenic substances thanks to its high antioxidant levels. Robust oils (such as those produced in Tuscany, Lazio and Trentino Alto-Adige) pair wonderfully with grilled meats, while the milder olive oils from Greece and Southern Italy are ideal for lighter grilled foods like fish.
A flavorful EVOO can also replace butter for grilled favorites like corn on the cob, portabella mushrooms, potatoes, onions and shrimp. As noted under the baking section, Peranzana and Arbequina olive oil varieties are the most similar to butter with their sweeter, more delicate flavor profiles.
Olive Oil With Food
Extra virgin olive oil is a perfect for meats given its peppery qualities. Whether sautéing chicken or dressing a steak, olive oil will bolster the rich, mesquite flavors. Also, using robust olive oils to finish red meats can make a world of difference for a food that is already so rich in flavor.
Try drizzling a Moraiolo or Picual variety olive oil on steak, lamb, and pork for an explosion of flavor. For poultry, sautéing chicken or duck in an olive oil can crisp the edges and help lock in flavor. For lighter meats, try using the Mission variety from California or even a lovely rosemary-infused olive oil.
Channel your inner greek – Extra virgin olive oil and fish are considered staples in the Mediterranean diet. While there are many varieties of extra virgin olive oil work well with fish, the more delicate the flavor the better. We recommend Koroneiki from Greece, Arbequina from Spain, or Nocellara and Itrana from Italy.
Pasta is where most people begin experimenting with olive oil! Nothing complements a delicious bowl of pasta better. Premium Italian extra virgin olive oils are especially right for the job. An obvious choice for pesto, another excellent way to use extra virgin olive oil with pasta, is as a finishing oil. Simply drizzle it over the final dish just before serving and experience a gourmet restaurant taste right at home. An oil packed with fruitiness and pungency provides enough flavor for simply dressing freshly cooked pasta noodles with nothing more than Parmesan cheese and freshly cracked pepper.
Soups, including chowders, bisques and stews, are perfect for garnishing with olive oil. Adding olive oil will intensify the flavors and add a little style since the oil usually floats in mini green puddles on top.
Olive oil and vegetables are a match made in heaven. The most common use for olive oil is to drizzle it on salads. Specific varieties do work differently with different types of salads. Greek olive oil works well on Greek salads of tomato, cucumber and feta cheese; while robust Italian oils work well on bitter greens such as arugula, endive or broccoli rabe with grassy, bitter greens. If grilling vegetables, lightly coat them before grilling to prevent sticking. When they’re done, drizzle with your favorite oil for added flavor!
Olive oils are rarely thought of when it comes to sweet fruit, but there is one tried and true combination: Fruit salad. Koroneiki or even the more obvious fruit-infused olive oils work quite well with the fruit salad, enhancing and harmonizing the sweetness of the dish.
Pulses, also known as legumes, paired with EVOO provide an excellent flavor combination common in the Mediterranean diet. Common pulses such as black-eyed peas, chickpeas, lentils, and broad beans can be significantly elevated in flavor simply by dressing the cooked legume with a fruity extra virgin olive oil and light balsamic.
Snacks & Desserts
The most common olive oil snack is simple: bread and EVOO. Many people learn the flavor complexities of olive oil through dipping, and it makes for an incredibly easy appetizer for any gathering. Bread dipping aside, there are other less common ways to snack with olive oil one should explore, like:
Drizzling olive oil on popcorn. The peppery qualities of olive oil does wonders for plain, white popcorn. It’s a great alternative for healthy snackers who prefer to stay away from butter. Peranzana and Arbequina variety olive oils are perfect for those searching for a flavor enhancer or butter replacement, while the Picual variety serves well to sophisticated palates unafraid of bitter qualities.
Drizzling olive oil on ice cream. Try the Taggiasca or Picholine varieties over your next bowl of vanilla frozen yogurt, ice cream, or sorbet.
Olive oil can have a special place in different cocktails, as it can add fruity and peppery tastes, as well as change the texture of drinks. Not to mention that olives and drinks have had a long, successful relationship. Mixologists around the country have begun to include olive oil in special martinis and Bloody Mary’s. Some have even created completely new concoctions.