Can you burn olive oil? (3 Health Benefits)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, can you burn olive oil? We will discuss if you can burn olive and the conditions needed to make that happen. We will also discuss the benefits and reasons to use olive oil for cooking.

Can you burn olive oil? 

Yes, it is possible to burn olive oil, especially when it is subjected to high temperatures during frying. The optimal frying temperature is typically around 180°C (356°F). 

Unrefined oils, such as extra-virgin olive oil, have a higher smoke point of approximately 210°C (376°F), which makes them suitable for frying initially.

However, when using olive oil for prolonged frying, the formation of free fatty acids (FFAs) can lower the smoke point to the frying temperature. This poses a concern as prolonged heating of frying oils can lead to thermal degradation, producing a potentially harmful compound called acrolein.

It’s essential to be cautious since the smoke point is followed by the flash point, and if the oil is heated for too long, it becomes susceptible to catching fire. (1)

Can some components degrade during frying?

Yes, it is important to recognize that certain antioxidant compounds present in virgin olive oil (VOO) may undergo degradation when subjected to the frying process. 

The degree of degradation can vary depending on the unique chemical structure of these compounds.

For example, ortho-/diphenols are more prone to oxidation, while lignans demonstrate greater resistance to such alterations. 

Additionally, the extent of VOO degradation during cooking is influenced by the specific frying technique employed and how many times it is used. Different methods can have diverse effects on the stability of these compounds within the oil. (2)

Should you worry about olive oil getting burnt when you cook with it?

No, there is no cause for worry. Fears regarding the degradation of fatty acids and minor compounds in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) due to heat are unfounded, as it is not a significant issue.

While oils rich in saturated fatty acids, like palm oil, may experience less degradation during cooking, they lack the valuable minor compounds, such as polyphenols, which are responsible for the health benefits associated with EVOO.

During the cooking process, the minor constituents of EVOO, including phenolic compounds, undergo oxidation. Interestingly, this oxidation helps to prevent the oxidation of fatty acids and other compounds, thereby ensuring the overall stability of the oil.

It is only when olive oil is repeatedly heated that it may undergo degradation and only then generate health hazards. (2, 3)

What happens to olive oil if you repeatedly heat and reuse it?

Olive oil undergoes physicochemical changes such as oxidation, hydrolysis, cyclization, and polymerization and eventually, it degrades to volatile compounds. 

These repeated heating alter manifestation of the oil with high viscosity, color darkening, froth and smoke point reduction, which makes it more harmful when these oils are consumed along with the food. (4)

When olive oil is used for extended frying periods and the levels of Free Fatty Acids (FFAs) increase, the smoke point can decrease, reaching the frying temperature. 

This situation poses a problem as prolonged heating of frying oils can lead to the production of acrolein through thermal degradation. Acrolein is a potentially toxic compound that can be harmful. (1)

What is olive oil’s smoke point?

Olive oil boasts a smoke point of 210°C, making it suitable for high frying temperatures, as it exceeds the recommended frying temperature of 180°C.

However, in the past, virgin olive oil (VOO) was not typically recommended for frying because its smoke point is relatively lower compared to other oils. For instance, peanut oil has a smoke point of approximately 225°C, sunflower oil around 255°C, soybean oil at 242°C, and palm oil at 227°C (2, 5).

Despite this, VOO exhibits resistance to oxidative deterioration during high-heat cooking, primarily due to its high monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) content and a low polyunsaturated-to-MUFA ratio.

Moreover, VOO contains microconstituents that contribute to retarding the oxidative deterioration of olive oil at elevated temperatures. (5)

What are the health effects of burnt olive oil?

Numerous studies have revealed that reheated and burnt oils can possess genotoxic, mutagenic, and carcinogenic properties. 

Adverse health effects associated with consuming reheated oil, including elevated blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, endothelial dysfunction, impaired vasorelaxation responses, hypertension, elevated LDL (low-density lipoprotein), and lipid peroxidation. (4)

What are the health benefits of cooking with olive oil?

Utilizing virgin olive oil (VOO) for high-heat cooking, such as frying, can lead to an improved intake of quality fats, which plays a crucial role in preventing cardiovascular and other diseases. 

The favorable fatty acid profile present in VOO contributes significantly to these health benefits.

Furthermore, fried foods prepared with VOO offer a wealth of health-promoting microconstituents, including polar phenolics, squalene, phytosterols, tocopherols, terpenic acids, and thermal/oxidative decomposition products. 

These constituents have the potential to interact with the food’s components, enhancing its nutritional value.

Clinical evidence has shown a notable reduction in cardiovascular disease-related events with the use of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), even when employed for frying. 

Compared to oils like sunflower oil, VOO demonstrates beneficial effects and superior protective properties, particularly in mitigating DNA oxidative damage. (5) 


  1. Vieira, S. A., McClements, D. J., & Decker, E. A. Challenges of Utilizing Healthy Fats in Foods. Advances in Nutrition, 6(3), 309S–317S. 2015.
  2. Julián Lozano-Castellón, José Fernando Rinaldi de Alvarenga, Anna Vallverdú-Queralt, Rosa M. Lamuela-Raventós, Cooking with extra-virgin olive oil: A mixture of food components to prevent oxidation and degradation, Trends in Food Science & Technology, 123, 28-36, 2022.
  3. Allouche, Y., Jiménez, A., Gaforio, J. J., Uceda, M., & Beltrán, G. How Heating Affects Extra Virgin Olive Oil Quality Indexes and Chemical Composition. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 55(23), 9646–9654. 2007.
  4. Ganesan, K., Sukalingam, K., & Xu, B. Impact of consumption of repeatedly heated cooking oils on the incidence of various cancers- A critical review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 1–18. 2017.
  5. Chiou, A., & Kalogeropoulos, N.  Virgin Olive Oil as Frying Oil. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 16(4), 632–646. 2017.

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