Category Archives: health

Frying with olive oil


I love it when people write in with questions. Recently, someone asked if you can fry with olive oil and if it was a healthy choice. First of all, no matter what oil you use, fried food is probably not the healthiest choice (but it is oh so good). That said, olive oil has its ups and downs for frying. Compared to grape seed oil or other seed oils, olive oil has a relatively low smoking-point (375-400F), which means that you will get a lot of smoke if you aren’t careful about the temperature and this could give your food a burnt taste. The other issue of frying with olive oil is that olive oil loses some of its properties when fried: those lovely green tastes are the first to go. However, there are no real negative effects of frying with olive oil  and there are certainly few health risks (other than the usual health issues of fried foods). Olive will not become a trans fat on your kitchen stove.
There are not many people who use extra virgin olive oil to fry; this is mainly due to the cost and the fact that it loses a lot of its delicate flavours when heated too high. In Italy, olive oil is still the first choice for frying but often virgin or pomace oil is used (low grades of olive oil). Olive oil also imparts a strong flavour to whatever it is you are frying. This can work really well with some types of fish, for example.

My recommendation is to save your good extra virgin olive oil for finishing dishes. I use it as a condiment to add a little something to soups, pasta, salads as well as grilled meats and vegetables. I have also been known to put it on my toast in the morning, but that is quite extreme.

Olive oil as an anti-inflammatory?

Can olive oil add anti-inflammatory to its list of beneficial properties? A recent article in the New York Times suggests that extra virgin olive oil may inhibit inflammation and this maybe another reason for singing the praises of the Mediterranean diet. Apparently, more research is needed but scientists may be on to something here. Vince, thanks for sending this article my way.

Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes: No butter, no problem

I was cooking some mashed potatoes last night and just as Sean was starting to mash (we actually use a ricer–the funny contraption above), I realised we had no butter! I have pretty much stopped buying butter since olive oil came into my life. No problem. I reached for my bottle of olive oil and poured liberally into the very dry looking potatoes. We added some milk, grated in a little parmigiano, salt and a head of roasted garlic. Wow, I have to say the results were impressive. Our mashed potatoes were every bit as rich as the standard buttery variety and the flavour had just a hint of olive, which went very well with the slow braised short ribs we had as a main course.

There are many recipes where you can substitute olive oil for butter. It is a delicious and healthy alternative. Here is a great recipe for mashed potatoes with kale and olive oil on the beautiful 101 cookbooks site.