For as long as I recall watching cooking shows, we (consumers) have been told that one should not use olive oil for frying as it has a very low smoke point. Smoke point refers to the temperature an oil becomes unstable, burns and breaks down, giving off an unpleasant taste. With respect to olive oil, the smoke point depends on the quality of olive oil (another heated discussion) with the high quality extra-virgin olive oil (low free fatty acids) having the highest smoke point (of olive oils).
These high quality olive oils are also expensive and frying with these oils are prohibitively expensive for most so that leaves us with the other olives many of see in the supermarkets, which also have a lower smoke point. Extra-virgin olive oil’s smoke point varies between 365F and 400F (185 – 205C), well within the usual temperatures using for for frying and deep-frying.
Yes, it’s true that olive oils that often get mentioned/recommended for frying do in fact have higher smoke point than olive oil (400F for Canola, 410F for sesame oil, 480F for avocado oil and 485F for grape seed oil. All these oils including olive oil have a smoke point that is well within the temperatures required frying but I’m going to opt for olive oil.
I have had no problems using less expensive “extra-virgin olive oils”…(you know the ones on sale at supermarkets) for frying and I opt for frying in olive oil for the most important reason in cooking: flavour. There is nothing wrong with using vegetable oils for frying (I like sunflower oil) and I am in no way recommending that you begin frying on a daily basis (DON’T) but when you do, do it right – go for the gusto and fry with olive oil.
I use high quality extra-virgin olive oil for salads, finishing dishes or making “ladolemono” (an oil-lemon based dressing) for fish, seafood and grilled meats. Less expensive supermarket olive oils are what I use to fry…its more economical, I get great results frying and I don’t sully the well-prodcued extra-vrigin olive oils by frying with them.
One of the most delicious items to order in Greece is Patates Tiganites (fried potatoes) or French Fries as we know them in the west. The better tavernas will use olive for frying but many will use sunflower oil (a business decision). For me, the perfect French Fry is a crisp outer potato with a soft, fluffy inside. I invite you to try olive oil French Fries on your own, at your home using a deep heavy bottomed large pot or a dedicated deep fryer. I also recommend using a thermometer to monitor your oil temperature.
Frying foods in olive oil has been a method of cooking way before products like canola or corn oil were invented. My mother fried in olive oil, y aunts do, my grandmother fried in olive oil and I’m pretty sure many Greek friends who read this site can confirm having fried foods cooked in olive oil. Once again, the old ways are better.
Olive Oil French Fries (Πατάτες τηγανιτές)
4 large Yukon Gold (other yellow variety) potatoes
approx. 1 litre of extra-virgin olive oil
- Peel your potatoes and cut into thin or thick we batons or sticks. Pour about half the olive oil the pot and bring up to a temperature of 300F (use that thermometer). Carefully drop the cut potatoes in the oil (there should be just enough oil to cover the potatoes) and do not stir or disturb them. Fry for about 15 minutes or until you just see the tips begin to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer the potatoes to bowl to cool completely.
- You may finish frying your potatoes once they have cooled or reserve until later when you want to serve your fries (great prep tip for entertaining). Add the remaining olive oil and bring up to a temperature of 365-375F and once you’ve reached that heat, carefully place your reserved potatoes in the hot oil and fry for 5-10 minutes or until just golden and crisp.
- Remove the fries with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-lined bowl or platter and sprinkle fine sea salt, some dried Greek oregano and toss to coat. Serve immediately and taste the difference with olive oil French Fries.
Note: You can fry in the same olive for up to 4-5 times.
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