Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which along with tasting awesome, has long been touted for its heart-healthy benefits. But what happens when you want to add some deep-fried anchovies to your caprese sandwhich? (You should do that, by the way.) Does the wicked act of frying undo olive oil's extra-virgin status? Should you just scrap the whole idea of "healthy frying" and just order a bucket of KFC?
It turns out you can fry in olive oil while keeping your arteries happy. The trick is heating the oil to just the right temperature. Oils are dynamic in nature, and their chemical makeup is affected by heat. In order to fry quickly and lock in flavor, keep the oil between 350-375 degrees. This is what deep-fry thermometers are for, because there's no real guessing game there. Some believe the smoke point of olive oil falls below this ideal frying temperature and this may be true of mass-produced low-quality oil. Good quality olive oil free of impurities, however, has a smoke point upwards of 380 degrees. So as long as your pan is the right temperature, you can feel good about adding some crispy goodness to your favorite Mediterranean ingredients.
Need more proof? Look at you being all health-conscious. The International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) states, "In proper temperatures, without over-heating, [olive oil] undergoes no significant structural change and keeps its nutritional value better than other oils."
So go ahead and fry up those tiny fish, stick them in your sandwich, and call it lunch.
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