The answer is – when it’s heated too high. Summer grilling is upon us, at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) slathered meats and vegetables are being tossed onto grills. As the heat goes higher and you try to put a nice char on your food, all those beautifully nutritious anti-oxidants in EVOO turn into free-radicals.
But, how does that happen? And, what is a free-radical anyway?
All cooking oils have what is known as a smoke point. It is the temperature at which a cooking oil starts to break down into glycerol and free fatty acids and produces smoke. Extra Virgin Olive Oil’s smoke point is listed in several sources as ranging from 320F/160C to 400F/204C. This means that by the time you’ve got your grill good and hot your EVOO covered or marinated food won’t retain the healthful benefits or flavor of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil you just used.
A free radical is any atom or molecule that has a single unpaired electron in an outer shell. Yes, that doesn’t sound too bad but apparently the accumulation of those unpaired electrons cause oxidative damage to us or in simpler terms makes us age more rapidly, both inside and out.
Now, I like grilled foods, I like charred meats and vegetables, and I like olive oil. I have found a happy compromise. If I must use a cooking oil for grilling or high heat, I use grapeseed oil, which has a high smoke point, about 485F/252C. It also has little flavor and I finish my newly grilled food with the EVOO of my choosing – all the benefits and few of the carcinogens. Mmmmmm!
May the sun shine through your branches.