Updated: Jul 13, 2022
Olive oil is ideal for frying. In proper temperature conditions, without over-heating, it undergoes no substantial structural change and keeps its nutritional value better than other oils, not only because of the antioxidants but also due to its high levels of oleic acid." - International Olive Council
If there is only one olive oil cooking tip you leave with today, let it be this one. You can fry with olive oil! So long as you keep the oil below the smoke level. The smoking point of olive oil is anywhere between 380 and 410 degrees Fahrenheit. Well above the required temperature for everything but the highest heat cooking. Olive oil contains antioxidants called phenols that reduce heat stress and protect the oil from oxidation at high temperatures. You are not drastically changing the chemical composition of the oil—its high amount of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant, and oleic acid levels make it a very stable compound remaining chemically unchanged throughout the cooking process with all its nutrients intact.
Although the mythology of frying and olive oil is contentious it is generally accepted that using olive oil for a sear or shallow fry is fine. If needed a pour of oil into a large wide saucepan to come halfway up the sides is fine. Frying in olive oil is delicious. The crisp and sear of a good quality olive oil is a thing of beauty. Olive oil also helps form a crust on the outside of the food when frying, sealing in all the flavor. Allowing the oil to heat up in the pan before adding food will preventing the oil from soaking in and lend a subtle hit of flavor that a neutral oil doesn't do.
When using olive oil for frying, do not generalize the oil. Not all olive oil is created equal. Top quality artisan extra virgin olive oil has different qualities than a commercially produced olive oil and the higher the quality of the olive oil, the higher the temperature you can fry with. When frying with extra virgin olive oil, be aware that the taste of the fried oil also changes depending on the olive cultivar.Some oils are better for frying than others. It is a matter of taste and expense but choose a well-rounded oil with an assertive flavor that mellows under fire and blooms under heat to release a subtle spicy flavor intrinsic to the olives. I would not choose a finishing oil to fry with. Although most are multi-purpose, their subtle flavor nuances are best suited to other preparations. A drizzle of a finishing oil adds flavor to salads, rice, pasta, pizza, vegetables, grilled meats and pinzimonio. Our Capezzana extra virgin olive oil is especially good for this. Finishing oils are a wonderful condiment when you want to add a touch of Mediterranean flare to a dish. Our favorite may be a pour of a classic Capezzana over sun-ripened tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil or drizzled into a blender with pine nuts, garlic and parmigiano to make a pesto.
The oil from cultivars such as the rustic Olivastra-Seggianese olive, exclusive to an area in southern Tuscany, produce a robust flavor and density more suitable for frying. This olive cultivar is unique to the Mount Amiata region of southern Tuscany in the Maremma. A no-nonsense oil with a spicy charge from the wild side of Italy is most suitable for frying.
The incensual infusion of herbs and spices in a good quality extra virgin olive oil is a hallmark of Mediterranean cooking. As a seasoning, in sautéing, frying, roasting and other cooking methods olive oil is part of the culinary and culinary traditional of regional Italian food for centuries. In Italy Cotoletta alla Milanese, Sicilian Arancini, Olive all'Ascolana from the Marche, Panzerotti and Struffoli are but some recipes that bloom when olive oil meets the heat of the fryer.