What Happens To Olive Oil At High Heat

Author: Jenny J. Brown
March 19, 2023

Many cookbooks and celebrity chefs on television have cautioned against using olive oil (and especially extra-virgin olive oil) in high-temperature cooking. They complain that the smoke point of the oil is too low at only 375 degrees Fahrenheit (and isn’t much higher for refined olive oil), and that smoked oil is bad.

However, what exactly is smoking, and what are the most serious consequences of doing so? Though all oils are, molecularly speaking, fats, those fats themselves are formed of molecular chains called fatty acids.

Most of those fatty acids are attached to glycerol molecules to create fat, but every oil contains some free-floating fatty acids unbound by atomic or social convention.

What happens to olive oil in a hot pan?

The short answer: It burns.

Olive oil has a very high smoke point, which means that it will burn before it starts to break down. That’s why when you put olive oil into a hot pan, it immediately starts smoking.

But what does that mean? Well, it means that you’re going to have to add more oil to the pan later on. If you don’t, the oil will start breaking down and turning rancid. And once it gets rancid, it won’t smell good anymore.

What happens to olive oils when they get too hot?

When you heat up olive oil, two things happen:

1) The oil breaks down and becomes rancid.

2) The oil smokes.

If you’ve ever had an old bottle of extra virgin olive oil sitting around, chances are it smells pretty bad. That’s because the oil has become rancid. So how do you know if your oil is rancid? There are several ways to test it. Here are some common tests:

Smell Test

Put a few drops of your oil onto a paper towel or napkin. Then place the paper towel or napkin near your nose. Does it smell like olives? If yes, then your oil is probably still okay. If no, then it’s definitely rancid.

Color Test

You can also check the color of your oil by placing a small amount of it on a white plate. If it turns dark greenish yellow, then it’s likely rancid. You can also try adding a drop of food coloring to the oil. If it changes colors, then it’s rancid.

Why is it important to keep your olive oil from getting too hot?

Because when you heat up olive oil over high heat, it begins to break down and turn rancid. This process is called oxidation. Oxidation occurs naturally in the presence of oxygen. When you heat up olive oil in a pan, you increase the amount of oxygen present.

As a result, the oil oxidizes faster. And since oxidation leads to rancidity, you’ll end up with a lot of off-flavors and odors.

This is especially true if you leave the oil in the pan after heating it. Once the oil cools down, it will continue to oxidize. And if you let the oil sit at room temperature for a while, even more oxidation will occur.

So how do we prevent this from happening? We need to make sure that the oil doesn’t come into contact with oxygen. To do this, we need to store the oil in a sealed container.

Why does olive oil smoke at high temperatures?

When you heat up olive oil, it releases volatile compounds. These compounds include things like alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, esters, acids, and terpenes. These chemicals give the oil its flavor and aroma. And they’re what makes olive oil so delicious.

But these same chemicals are also responsible for the smoky odor. So when you heat up olive oils, those volatile compounds start releasing. But not all of them. Some of them are very reactive.

They tend to react with other molecules in the oil. In particular, they tend to react to each other. As a result, some of the compounds get trapped inside the oil. And others escape into the surrounding air.

What happens if Olive oil gets exposed to high heat?

Toxic byproducts termed polar compounds are formed when cooking oils are heated in the presence of air. These chemicals have been connected to the development of significant health issues such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Depending on their chemical composition, some oils can withstand higher temperatures than others. The Australian scientists highlighted that the permissible upper limit for polar molecules in frying oil is between 24 and 27 percent.

They added, however, that the levels should be significantly lower in fried items that have been stored for a while before being eaten.


In conclusion, high temperatures can cause oils to break down and become rancid. This means that if you want to use extra virgin olive oil for cooking, you’ll need to keep it away from direct sunlight, extreme heat, and air currents. However, if you store it properly, you won’t have to worry too much about these issues.

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