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Can I fry with Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
01 November 2012 @ 21:29


Can we really fry with Extra Virgin Olive Oil?   Should we?   Is it not just a waste of money?   Should we be frying food full stop? 


These are questions I’m being asked all the time and as it is a very common subject, thought I might clear up the doubts surrounding it. Frying is one of the oldest forms of cooking common to all of the Mediterranean Basin: Europe, Asia and Africa. In short the homeland for the Olive Tree. As a method of cooking it is dominant in all cultures and religions scattered throughout the region.

Recent investigations have shown that frying is actually beneficial to the organism, particularly from the physiological point of view contrary to general opinion. “But fried food is fatty and can’t be digested properly and it gives me a heavy stomach” is an all too common remark. Whether the food that is fried is digested easily or weighs down your stomach depends to a great extent on the type of oil used, the temperature of the oil and the manner in which the food was fried. Yes even frying has its art form!

Studies undertaken on healthy subjects and patients with gastro-duodenal problems (gastritis, ulcer, liver and biliary complaints) have shown that there is no relationship between food fried in olive oil and these illnesses.

It all comes down to how edible oils deteriorate when heated. All oils will eventually suffer an alteration in their chemical structure when exposed to high temperatures. The alteration undergone by vegetable oils when heated for frying is far quicker, creating far more fatty acids particularly from seed oils and more so if the initial acidity of the oil was already high. It will always be more stable if it has a high content of natural antioxidants - vitamin E - polyphenols. This alteration also varies according to temperature and the length of time heated, number of times the oil is used and the manner of frying, if it is continuous frying it changes less and the type of food being fried is also a determining factor when using vegetable oils. Frying fish, especially oily fish, increases the polyunsaturated acid content of the oil, facilitating its rapid decomposition. So you better hope your local fish & chips shop changes their oil regularly if they use sunflower oil.



This is where the real benefits of extra virgin olive oil come to light. Extra virgin olive oil is ideal for frying. In proper temperature conditions, without over-heating, it undergoes no substantial structural change at all and keeps its nutritional value far better than other oils, not only because of the antioxidants but also due to its high levels of oleic acid (good fatty acids). It has a very high smoking point of 210ºC which is substantially higher than the ideal temperature for frying food which any cook will tell you is around 180ºC. Those fats with lower critical points, such as corn and butter, break down at this temperature and form toxic products.



“My chips were all greasy and full of oil!” Well, they were probably fried with vegetable oil (as seen in the picture). Apart from it being healthier, one of the best reasons for using extra virgin olive oil for frying is that it forms a crust on the surface of the food that impedes the penetration of oil and improves its flavour. Food fried in extra virgin olive oil has a much lower fat content than food fried in other oils, making extra virgin far more suitable for weight control. Extra virgin olive oil, is the most suitable, the lightest and the tastiest medium for frying.


It is an oil that goes much further than other oils, and not only can it be re-used more often than others, it also increases in volume when reheated, so less is required for cooking and frying. This is one major fact to take on board when evaluating the cost. You won’t need to waste as much oil. Where as no one would advise you to re-heat sunflower oil, there is no problem in re-heating extra virgin olive oil even up to 3 or 4 times and in some cases more, although I doubt any one would actually do it! The higher the polyphenol content in the extra virgin the longer it will last and it is the polyphenols that protect the oil from the heat. Picual varieties tend to very high in polyphenols, so medium to robust extra virgin is ideal.

The digestibility of heated extra virgin olive oil does not change even when re-used for frying several times. The only thing that will be altered is that it will adopt the flavour, as will any oil, of what you previously fried in it. But if you use a certain amount just for chips/potatoes you can re-use it over and over in your deep fat fryer, something that is not advisable for vegetable oils and nonetheless everyone still does it. Extra Virgin Olive oil should not be mixed with other fats or vegetable oils and should not generally be used more than four or five times. The oil used for frying should always be hot; if it is cold the food will soak up the oil, no matter what oil it is. It needs to be hot to form a sealed crust. 

If you have never tried a fried egg in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, I highly recommend it. Make sure you have a fair amount of olive oil in the pan, say 1cm in depth, heat the oil and pop in the egg, it will start to float in the oil and then with a spoon you ladle the hot oil over the top of the egg. The egg white will start to bubble a little and it will get a crispy edge to it. Once cooked to taste, remove and season. You will notice the difference straight away. It doesn’t taste greasy or fatty and is just divine! It is so simple and so much healthier. Spain is renowned for its fried eggs and there are world-famous restaurants in Madrid that are famous for one one simple dish - their fried eggs. Give it a go!



Other popular articles by Ian Mackay ©

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Introduction-Part 1


Go to article: The World of Olive Oil- Olive Oil Categories-Part 2


Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - How to recognise an authentic extra virgin olive oil - Part 3


Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Olive Oil Tasting - Part 4


Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - True Virginity - Part 5


Go to article: The perfect Crime Scene


Go to article: Spanish Cured Ham-What you need to know


Like 1


eggcup said:
01 November 2012 @ 23:33

Ian. I was told years ago that extra virgin should never be fried, but only put in salads, so we always got ordinarly olive oil instead of extra from the mill, in return for our olives. I was told that if you fried extra virgin olive oil it became toxic...

eos_ian said:
02 November 2012 @ 07:28

Yes, that is exactly what most people think, and it is certainly not true. Which is precisely why I wrote the article. If you burn the oil, any oil, by over heating it, it will degrade the chemical structure of the oil completely and then it is certainly not healthy, but this is not unique to extra virgin olive oil.

tony said:
03 November 2012 @ 07:27

I have used extra virgin for years and would recommend it to anyone, fries in extra virgin are delicious!

NormaB said:
03 November 2012 @ 08:43

I´m off to Madrid in a couple of weeks and the fried egg restaurants sound brilliant for a few breakfasts. Can you tell me the name of any of these please

eos_ian said:
03 November 2012 @ 08:49

Normab the restaurant CASA LUCIO is by far the best, you must try it.

Thistles said:
03 November 2012 @ 08:53

So, should I not be reheating the oil in my deep-fat fryer every time I use it? Given that there are 2 litres of oil in it, it's obvious I'm not going to dispose of it each time I have chips.

Vicente said:
03 November 2012 @ 10:12

I am a spaniard living in London, my father together with all the people in the village where I come from make their own olive oil for the yearly consumption. I have known nothing but olive oil for cooking as well as for salads in my entire life (I am 52). I bring the oil from my fathers to London. I always cook with it, no matter what ! fried or not fried. My parents, grandparents, great grandparent etc always cooked with olive oil, and I think that the bit about the toxic is most likely to be a myth..! Most of my family have lived to very old age, and have lived a very healthy life! (touch wood). I have tasted food cooked in other oils and it is not the same. As the article suggest, please try a simple fried egg, it is simply delicious, and the spanish omelet cooked with pure olive oil, it is just divine! do that at home and avoid the boiled potatoes 'tortilla' they sell in supermarkets! Ahh and every morning I always have a spoon of raw olive oil. It is suppose to clean your liver. There is no fat in me!

Gerry said:
03 November 2012 @ 10:28

Thanks Ian for explaining this. I'm sure most people were of the belief that frying olive oil at high temperatures was bad for them. Interestingly I was in a bar/restaurant kitchen in Madrid where the chef pointed out an area above the gas rings covered in horrible, sticky residue. He said that it was due to frying in vegetable oil. When he used olive oil none of that residue appeared, the kitchen remained pefectly clean.

eos_ian said:
03 November 2012 @ 11:17

Thistles, When I make reference to not reheating, it is for a general health reason not because it has gone toxic. 2 litres of oil will take a longer to go toxic than a small amount in the frying pan. Vegetable oil shouldn't become "toxic" until you have used it for a quite a while. i.e. 20 min everyday for about 8 weeks so long as you haven't over heated the oil. But this isn't about it becoming toxic, if one is using toxic oil, it is very dangerous for you over a period of time. Here the main issue is the "fat" that is being transferred to the food. Which is the major health issue. vegetable oil degrades much quicker and the fatty acids are absorbed by the food which are very bad for one's cholesterol amongst other things.The more you reheat vegetable oil, the more unhealthy it is. Olive oil will stay healthier as an oil for much longer than vegetable oil. It has monounsaturated fats which are good for controlling cholesterol and very healthy.

eos_ian said:
03 November 2012 @ 11:20

Gerry that is entirely true, it just gives you an idea of how unhealthy vegetable oil is, that residue is going into your body as well!

eos_ian said:
03 November 2012 @ 11:38

The web site for the restaurant in Madrid is

They also have a bar called

"Taberna Los Huevos de Lucio" which is much more informal.

Maureen said:
03 November 2012 @ 13:50

I believed that olive oil had no calories used on salads but as soon as it was heated it had a high calorie content! Incidently I found you article on olive oil very interesting, I will be giving the fried egg a try. Thanks

Margaret said:
03 November 2012 @ 14:02

I always cook in extra virgin olive oil. But I never used to and when I came to clean my chip pan it was all gobbed up with thick sticky fat.
I had to use soda to get it clean.
Now I use olive oil and only have to use hot soapy water to clean
my chip pan. Food tastes a lot better. EVEN FRIED BREAD IS SUPERB

olgaespana said:
03 November 2012 @ 21:53

Thanks to all!!! I'm happy that i've learnt so useful infomation Tomorrow I'm going to fry eggs in a new the healthiest way!

Finisterre said:
04 November 2012 @ 07:26

Well, this really is interesting. I had also read about not frying in extra virgin but you write very persuasively, Ian. I might have to try the fried egg suggestion right now!

Also, great comment Vicente. A spoonful of oil every morning! In England we are supposed to eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away. Spain is definitely different! ;-)

Philip said:
04 November 2012 @ 11:55

We use nothing but Extra Virgin for frying & discovered the fried egg treat some while ago. The only time we do add something is cooking fillet steak, then we add a knob of butter to the EVOO so that the outside does brown a little . EVOO won't do that.

Potatoe chips twice fried (Belgian style), once for 2 mins at 160C rest for 2 mins then 1 min at 180C will give you the best potatoe taste ever - try it!

Julie said:
05 November 2012 @ 09:56


Olive oil has no calories in salads!!! Is this especially true if you eat it standing up?


eos_ian said:
05 November 2012 @ 10:27

For everyone's knowledge Extra Virgin Olive Oil has approximately 90 calories for per 10g.

Haggis said:
05 November 2012 @ 15:22

Not for the first time have I heard TV chefs say that by all means use EVO on salads etc to improve the flavour but if you are frying food - any good oil will do - no point in using expensive EVO - since you can't taste the difference. Wish I could remember which TV chefs though - but since they should have known better I simply accepted their advice at face value. Your article was very enlightening - and fully supported with a valid and detailed argument which I intend immediately to put to the test with relish! Thank you.

Petrone said:
05 November 2012 @ 16:55

I totally agree and prefer to use it for roasting potatos and vedge too. I only ever fry eggs in extra virgin oil they really do taste best. There are very good websites showing benefits of olive oil versus all the alternatives, including coconut oil which is extremely expensive.

eos_ian said:
05 November 2012 @ 17:02

Thank you all for your comments and it's great to see that my articles are being enjoyed and of use.

Patricia (Campana) said:
05 November 2012 @ 23:08

Always used the Aceite de Oliva Extra Virgen. For cooking too. We get a large "bidón" straight from the press, via some friends....

I like to doctor a bottle of the olive oil with a couple of cloves of garlic, maybe a sprig of romero (rosemary) and even a hot pepper.

Jerry Wilson said:
23 November 2012 @ 04:38

Thank you for the further explanation. Using virgin olive oil is not new to us as well us using vegetable oil, we rarely use coconut oil for some health reasons. We prefer to use vegetable or olive oil for cooking.

Beechestwo said:
19 January 2013 @ 07:19

Good on you Ian,I am off to fry an egg.!!

Scubydoo said:
27 April 2013 @ 08:03

Hi I read an artical some years ago that said DO NOT fry with extra virgin as it turns it carcinogenic (causes Cancer)

eos-ian said:
27 April 2013 @ 08:48

Hi Scubydoo
Well fortunately that isn't true. What you must remember is not to take over heat or burn it. Any oil, olive or vegetable when burnt degrades and is potentially very bad for you in the long run. Olive oils far more resistant than people think.

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12 May 2014 @ 14:37

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Pharmf691 said:
15 May 2014 @ 19:06

Very nice site!

Pharmc612 said:
19 May 2014 @ 15:31

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Pharme201 said:
20 May 2014 @ 22:23

Very nice site!

Falcón said:
02 February 2017 @ 21:53

This article is excelent because Extra Virgen Olive Oil is really healthy for all people.
I love Olive Oil!

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