Is EVOO good or bad for frying?

by Hester de Wet

Fish and “slap” chips, jalapeño poppers, onion rings or samosas. Whether we enjoy it on FRYdays or per occasion, we South Africans sure like our fried foods!

Many of us still want the same hot, crispy satisfaction, but without the guilt, so we look to other oils. Perhaps extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)? You bet!

Frying temperature is usually around 180 ˚C, and with EVOO and seed oil’s smoking point (the moment a bluish smoke forms and gives food a burnt flavour) both being higher than that (± 210 ˚C), how do you choose?

To help you decide, we will give a quick breakdown of what happens during heating of oil:

When oil is heated, a chemical breakdown slowly starts happening. There are mainly 3 by-products formed; namely non-volatile polar compounds, triacylglycerol dimers and polymers. The latter two is associated with various forms of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease (dosage is important!). These 3 by-products are mainly formed from fatty acids, the main component in oils.

The difference in cooking oils lies in their reaction to this heating process:

  • Studies have shown that the free fatty acid content in EVOO remains unchanged after 30 minutes of heating, while other oils increase. This means that there is little breakdown into the 3 by-products.
  • EVOO’s initial trans-fat content is extremely low due to its natural, unrefined state. After heating, it only increases slightly. Even this increased trans-fat content is still less than seed oils’ initial content! Trans-fats can increase LDL (bad) cholesterol, which is linked to several heart conditions.
  • The longer you fry food, the more polar compounds form. EVOO has the lowest polar compound content after heating.
  • EVOO contains antioxidants, which protects it against oxidation during heating. The refining process of other oils destroys all the antioxidants, leaving it vulnerable to rapid oxidation. The protection antioxidants lend to EVOO, is what makes it a stable oil to cook with and your food will not taste rancid or “old”.

So, when the craving for “slap” chips hit you, rather grab the Willow Creek Extra Virgin Olive Oil on your shelf.  You can use the same EVOO for frying up to 5 times!

Disclaimer: This article does in no way endorse an unhealthy diet associated with fried foods, nor is it the intention to diminish other vegetable and seed oils. Its only purpose is to educate the consumer to allow them to make an informed decision.