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There are plenty of recipes regarding how to cook fish, and other foods, in olive oil.

This puzzles me because olive oil has a very low smoking point. So I'll burn it if I cook fish at 350 degrees. If I set the temp to 200 degrees, the fish will cook for ages and will basically boil in it's own juices.

So how do seasoned cooks deal with this? How do you cook in olive oil?

marked as duplicate by rumtscho Dec 11 '18 at 11:40

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  • you should be looking for "poaching in olive oil". – Max Dec 11 '18 at 2:33
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Lorel's analysis is correct. But let me add that olive oil is merely the fashionable oil at the moment. Most people don't know that it has a low smoking point, and think they're using The Best if they're using it for everything, even if they buy special non-olive-tasting olive abominations. Recipes are not necessarily produced by well-trained chefs, much less ones with serious backgrounds in nutrition or chemistry.

So in summary, it's perfectly OK to use olive oil to saute your fish. But if you were to want to fry the same fish, that's a different proposition. Frying anything requires much higher temperatures, and you should feel free to substitute any suitable oil for that, no matter what the recipe says. Peanut is the classic, safflower is just as good, just off the top of my head (beware of many charts floating around, which seem to differ greatly with the source)

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It sounds like you feel that 350 is too low a temperature to effectively cook fish and some other foods.

In fact many of the foods that people saute in olive oil are vegetables which could also be cooked just fine on top of the stove immersed in water. By that method, the vegetables would not exceed 212°F, since the temperature of water can't go above its boiling point. You may decide this isn't the tastiest way to prepare vegetables, but they would certainly cook and become "done" at that temperature.

Likewise for fish and other meats, as I look up the internal temperature required for "done-ness" on this site and other internet locations like kitchn, etc., various meats are considered done when their temperature reaches a level somewhere between 145°F for fish, and up to 170°F or so that someone recommends for well done beef.

So it shouldn't be necessary to exceed olive-oil temperatures in order to get most foods to cook. It might be puzzling that sometimes you do use much higher temperatures than that in cooking, like in the oven. But the food itself doesn't get as hot as the oven setting.

When you preheat your oven to a nice hot temperature (above 350), and put in some raw food to bake, it takes a while for the hot air in the oven to bring the food up to a fully done temperature, since hot air doesn't transfer heat very efficiently. However the food won't reach an internal temperature the same as your oven setting before burning. It will be done before its temp. gets that high.

On top of the stove, olive oil in a pan transfers heat to the surface of your fish, vegetables, or chicken etc. faster than the air in the oven. But either way will successfully get the temperature of the food up to the level of doneness, and well below the smoke-point of olive oil.

  • Hi Lorel. Thanks for the answer and I'm actually saying that 350 is too high a temperature for olive oil because its smoking point is like 220 – Jenia Ivanov Dec 12 '18 at 0:08

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