Friday, February 5, 2010

More on the Smoke Point of Olive Oil from Richard Gawel

Here's Richard Gawel's comment on a Washington state food writer discouraging her readers to avoid cooking with olive oil. There's no need to include her article. We have enough misinformation circulating as is. As I mentioned in my earlier blog post, Australian Richard Gawel, is an internationally acclaimed researcher, taster, consultant and all around guru regarding olive oil. When he speaks people listen. Moreover he's extremely humorous, never taking himself too seriously.

"Good quality low acidity extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has a pretty high smoke point, unlike the low quality EU EVOO that people buy at their local supermarket. The olivey flavor of EVOO might not suit what you are trying to do with it, but that's got nothing to do with smoke point. Not many folks know this, but the artificial fat soluble preservatives added to all refined oils (canola, 'olive oil' aka non EVOO, vegetable, flaxseed etc) such as butylated hydroxytoluene and butylated hydroxyanisole add around 15-30F to the smoke point of these oils. Nice if you like eating the stuff. Lastly EVOO doesn't break down any quicker than any other oil with heating. In fact, the natural preservatives called polyphenols that you find in EVOO protect it from heat degradation."

On related point, I asked Richard about the smoke point of refined olive oil. This is the nasty stuff processed with high heat and chemicals from the waste and residue of the pressing of Extra Virgin olive oil. On your supermarket shelf it's often labeled, "Extra Light Olive Oil." Eventually the FDA must stop this labeling. First, "Light" has nothing Extra Virgin. This a total misrepresentation to the consumer.

Here's my question to Richard, "Chefs often state that refined olive oil has a smoke point higher than Extra Virgin. What are the actual facts?"

Richard's response:

"Hi Bill
Yes that certainly is true. By European law, refined olive oils must have a (very low) acidity of no more than 0.03% (as anything more than that suggests that the refining process was incomplete). Anyway low acidity = higher smoke point. Also refined oils have preservatives added to them such as BHT and BHA. These help raise the smoke point of the oil by between 8 and 22C. Obviously extra virgin olive oils are preservative free so they don’t get this artificial leg-up smoke point wise."

For those concerned about preservatives, you might want to consider using high quality Extra Virgin olive oil more frequently.

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