Chef Dory Ford on Deep-Frying w/ Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A big myth we hear involves deep-frying and extra virgin olive oil. Can’t be done, so the myth goes. But don’t tell Mediterranean cooks that. They’ve been deep-frying foods in extra virgin olive oil for a long time. You’ll also beg to differ with the deep-frying myth if you’ve ever eaten EVOO French fries. And certainly don’t tell Dory Ford it can’t be done. The California chef often deep-fries with EVOO, and reuses the oil for other cooking.

Ford — who also poaches seafood in EVOO — says it’s a matter of good health and taste.

He points to EVOO’s high level of healthful monounsaturated fats. “It’s a more healthful way of cooking,” says Ford, chef-owner of Aqua Terra Culinary, a Pebble Beach, Calif., firm that handles catering, event planning, and menu consulting.

And Ford prefers deep-frying with EVOO versus other oils for another reason: “It adds flavor.”

Ford particularly likes deep-frying vegetables in EVOO, including sweet-potato fries. “They cease to be plain, old boring sweet-potato fries,” he tells us You can also watch Ford in this video preparing deep-fried ravioli stuffed with puréed fava beans.

Ford uses our Arbequina to deep-fry the ravioli. Fava beans on their own “have a neutral flavor” and are “very bland,” he says. “The Arbequina adds to the ravioli’s texture and flavor profile.”

Photo by Topher Mueller, Alma Street Photography

Ford’s rule of thumb when deep-frying with EVOO: Avoid turning the heat up too high.

“There’s a myth out there that oil needs to be super hot to deep fry,” he adds. “I would never turn my deep fryer higher than 340 degrees Fahrenheit, even with other types of oil. We’re only trying to make the outside of the food crispy.”

The higher temperatures will shorten the EVOO’s life span, Ford says. That’s not good if you want to reuse the oil. Ford suggests treating the oil like a high-quality stereo.

“You don’t want to abuse it,” he says. “As long as you don’t burn it or take it to the smoke point you can reuse it for other cooking applications.” A high-quality EVOO’s smoke point is put at 410 degrees F.

Ford said it’s a good idea to invest in a thermometer you can hook to the side of the pan or pot you’re using to deep-fry. He recommends a digital thermometer with a probe at the end of a wire.

To save your EVOO for future use, Ford and other chefs recommends carefully pouring the cooled oil back into a container such as a jar or bottle, while leaving any sediment or juices in the pan. (We’ve strained the oil through a fine-mesh strainer.)

You also want to keep the oil in the refrigerator. “It extends its life and keeps it fresh,” Ford says.

Bon appétit,

Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch