Myth Busters

I realize that this will be my second week in a row blogging about olive oil, but I came across some interesting information this week which I feel is worthy of passing along.

Recently on the listserv for the Association for the Study of Food & Society somebody posed a question about the history of deep fat frying. As things typically do on this listserv, the topic narrowed until the discussion became fairly focused, this time it was on olive oil.

The question posed was that if so many of us have been taught that cooking or frying in olive oil should not be done because it has such a low smoking point, how come olive oil is used for just those tasks throughout the world, particularly in the Mediterranean regions?

In finding that nobody could really answer these questions, Ken Abala a food historian, university professor, prolific author and blogger worth keeping tabs on, decided that he was going to put this to the test once and for all. What he found is that the theory about olive oil having a low smoking point is just that, a theory and in his words, “absolute nonesense.”

Abala found that olive oil worked just as well as other vegetable oils and there were no issues with smoking at the temperature he was using it (around 350 degrees which is standard for deep frying.) What he also noticed, however, is that the olive oil did not impart any particular flavor as he had suspected it might. He concluded that with the cost of olive oil being so much higher than other vegetable oils, using it in large quantities for frying just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

It’s better saved for ice cream, if you ask me.

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