Let’s Make Peace with the Olive.

While sitting at dinner with my husband and my friends a few nights ago, the topic of oils came up. What oil can I (Elizabeth) have? What oil has a high smoke point? What is the truth about olive oil?  When the four of us were discussing this, none of us had an exact answer, and left even more confused about the oils we should use for cooking, baking, frying, sautéing, in dressings, etc.

EVOO has become a household saying, thanks to Rachel Ray and her acronym for Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The Food Network Chef used EVOO in a number of dishes, but never really addressed what EVOO is and when you can actually use it. Cooking oil can be found anywhere (TJ Maxx even carries it) and has now become an artisan commodity and has led to boutique oil stores and pop-ups. Even though it is in high demand, no one seems to have a clear understanding of olive oil, or even what the rancidity or smoke point of the oil is.

Searching through the Internet and in cookbooks is confusing and seems contradictory, so I decided to dig even further by asking the experts at Beyond the Olive in Pasadena, CA. Crystal Reibel, owner of Beyond the Olive, debunks the myths that are out there about olive oil and EVOO (like it should only be used for a dressing or bread dipping). She states, “different olives produce different smoke points” and that you can’t just have one particular smoke point, because every bottle is a bit different. Crystal suggests that you should never cook with oil on higher than med-high heat. When she said this, it registered with me that when I bought my nice pans, there is a warning that says the best heat for your pans is medium-high heat at max.  Light bulb moment!

While researching, I realized that since I shop for my produce with care and precision, then I should also do the same for my oils, especially the oils that come from plants. Olive oil helps to have a healthy heart, which leads to having a healthy body.

To get the best out of olive oil:

  • Store in a dry cupboard that doesn’t get a lot of heat.
  • Heat can change the effects the oil may have.
  • Find olive oil in a darker color glass; this is meant to keep out light
  • It doesn’t last forever: olive oil needs to be tossed after about 6-8 months after opening.
  • Don’t cook with it on higher than med-high heat
  • Strive for USDA Certified Organic
  • Each bottle of olive oil is different, just like the olive it was pressed (juiced) from
  • There is not one exact temperature that the olive oil will reach smoke point, but it is usually between 400-460 degrees F.

So many folks have written about oils. Jamie Oliver suggests you can use it for frying, and that its health benefits are higher than other oils. Beyond the Peel has a video that breaks down the structure of olive oil and recommends readers refer to “What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained” by Robert L. Wolke, Marlene Parrish. From the Mayo Clinic, to Olive Oil Times, there is a lot written about olive oil, but it is hard to know what is truth and not truth. So, let’s make peace with the olive branch, and begin to use olive oil in the way it was meant to be used.


About the Author:

A native Texan who, after being diagnosed with food allergies and Celiac Disease in her mid-twenties, wanted to help others who drastically had to change their diets later in life. She now lives in Los Angeles with her husband, where she operates Mary Lee Kitchen.


  1. Lauren February 19, 2014 at 4:55 am - Reply

    my problem is that i don’t read all the way through a recipe before i begin, so sometimes it comes as news to me halfway through that i have to blast something on high heat for a minute or two. so i’ve mostly relegated olive oil to dressing duty, and i’ve shifted to avocado oil for almost all our cooking now (though i sometimes cheat and roast veggies in olive oil… when its just asparagus, salt and oil, you can really tell a difference between olive and avocado). i know you’re allergic but… i wonder if the avocado oil would have the same effects as eating plain avocados?

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