Why You Should Think Twice About Using Olive Oil To Fry Foods

Editor's note: Updated guidance from the USDA and scientific studies has deemed high-quality olive oil an acceptable oil for frying, with a smoke point of about 410 degrees Fahrenheit. 

When it comes to cooking oils, olive oil is generally known as the healthiest option. It's less processed, rich in antioxidants, and its benefits are backed by extensive medical research (via Healthline). If you're planning to fry something up but want to cut a few calories, your first thought might be to reach for the olive oil. However, contrary to popular belief, frying foods with olive oil isn't any healthier. 

According to EatingWell, this is due to the fact that frying is done at a high temperature. When oil reaches its smoke point, its compounds, including the ones considered beneficial to your health, begin to break down. In addition, when these compounds evaporate and create smoke, they can create potentially carcinogenic toxins, The Sydney Morning Herald explains. So, when using olive oil to cook, it is quite important to be sure that the oil you're using is never heated to the point where it begins to produce smoke.

What is the best oil to fry food in?

Frying may not be the healthiest way to prepare food, but if you're looking for a healthier cooking method that doesn't sacrifice taste or texture, the good news is you don't always have to settle for the air fryer or oven. Safflower oil and rice bran oil, Taste of Home says, are the best alternatives. Like olive oil, these cooking oils are considered heart healthy, however unlike olive oil they have a much higher smoke point. Safflower and rice bran oil can be heated to temperatures as high as 500 degrees Fahrenheit before they start to smoke, whereas olive oil's smoke point ranges from 390 to 470 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on how refined it is (via Selo Olive). 

What that means is you can deep fry more effectively in safflower or rice bran oil, and it won't lose its healthy compounds after frying. Olive oil is undoubtedly a great option for other types of cooking, but for frying, it's best to stick to oils with higher smoke points.