Is Olive Oil Flammable?

Many individuals who often cook or use olive oil with any frequency may have some questions on varying questions and concerns or best practices. Getting the best use out of your olive oil is the primary goal but also ensuring kitchen safety is another strong consideration most individuals want to be well educated on.

A question that arises reasonably often is simple but does need some explanation. Is olive oil flammable? After some research on the topic, here is what I can tell you.

So, is olive oil flammable? Technically yes but it doesn’t ignite or cause a grease fire very easily. Olive oil needs to be heated to its flash point before it reaches a point where it will ignite. In addition, olive oil will begin to boil or show signs of high heat before it reaches these dangerous and flammable levels.

You do have a few other factors and considerations you need to keep in mind when using olive oil often or when you use olive oil for specific applications.

Stick with me for a minute or two, and I will cover a few more points about olive oil’s flammability and if indeed, olive oil will really burn or catch fire during your next cooking session.

The Flammability and Fire Potential of Olive Oil.

Like we stated above, olive oil isn’t very volatile. It must be heated to a flash point or sprayed in a fine mist manner over an open flame to cause any form of fire. A flashpoint it simply the temperature that the olive oil can create flammable vapors that if exposed to heat, will or could cause a fire.

For olive oil, this is around 410 degrees and sometimes lower for some olive oils.

Again, this doesn’t mean a fire will erupt in your kitchen when you have olive oil that reaches this temperature. Have you ever had olive oil that pops or sizzles in the pan while cooking?

This is the scenario that can give you an early indicator that you are getting close to an issue or the heat may be getting to high for the olive oil.

This is likely the olive oil hitting that point of 410-degrees F or slightly below when the olive oil is reaching its flash point.

Olive oil tends to boil or show signs of “popping” before it’s any real threat to cause a fire or is considered “highly flammable.”

What Temperature Does Olive Oil Ignite At?

As stated before, olive oil’s flash point is around the 410-degree mark but extra virgin olive oil has lower flash points. Usually around the 325 F- 375 F range.

This is how most kitchen fires start but mainly because the oil and cooking mechanism has been left unattended.

When olive oil reaches these temperatures and remains near a heat source, it becomes much more volatile.

The problem with olive oil or other cooking oils is that if they do happen catch fire, they can spread and grow quickly. Even pouring water on olive oil will cause the olive oil to jump out of the pan bringing the fire with it.

It’s always recommended that if your olive oil does “flash” or reach this point that you only put out the kitchen fire with a mist bottle or a fire extinguisher. Trying to simply pour or dump water on the oil will only cause it to grow, become more dangerous and potentially spread to other areas of the home.

Is Cooking Vegetables with Olive Oil in The Oven A Bad Idea?

If you are going to cook vegetables with olive oil, you should only sauté them. Using olive oils is actually a great way to cook vegetables if you use the sautéing method but one method people tend to make a mistake with is using olive oil in the oven.

This not only will burn your vegetables but can also cause a kitchen fire. People have been known to place vegetables in a pan, pour olive oil on the vegetables and cook for a set amount of time in the oven.

When olive oil is placed in the oven like this, and the heat rises to that flashpoint, we discussed previously, the olive oil is going to burn the vegetables and likely char the pan you are cooking them in.

Long story short, if you want to use olive oil to cook vegetables, using the stove stops, and sautéing method is your best bet for a great tasting meal and less likelihood of a kitchen fire occurring.

Why Should Olive Oil Not Be Heated? 3 Reasons Explained

#1 Potentially Harmful Compounds Released into The Air at Smoke Point

A few reasons exist as to why you shouldn’t heat olive oil. We discussed the flashpoint already with olive oil. We also have something known as the “smoke point” when it comes to cooking olive oil.

When olive oil reaches this smoke point, it begins giving off toxic smoke which can contain compounds that aren’t necessarily desirable to have in the air.

#2 Omega 3 Benefits Can Be Lost with Heat

Some of the best-known health benefits olive oil has to offer comes in the form of Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acids.

Unfortunately, when olive oil is heated, some of the properties and positive characteristics are lost in the exchange. Omega fatty acids can’t withstand heat or high temperatures.

#3 Polyphenols Are Damaged by Heat

In addition to the Omega 3 benefits being potentially lost during the heat exchange with olive oil, you are also likely losing a lot of the polyphenols (hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein) that contain high levels of antioxidants which are known to carry significant health enhancements.

When olive oil is heated, many of these properties are lost, and the olive oil begins degrading the polyphenols.

Putting It All Together, Although Not Common, Olive Oil Can Catch Fire

Although it’s certainly possible, that a potentially large kitchen fire could occur specifically because of olive oil. If you follow some standard best practices such as not heating it beyond a flash point and not using inappropriate methods to put out small oil fires than you shouldn’t have much to be concerned with.

If you ever run into a potential oil fire in your kitchen, turn off the heat source and do not pour water over it. If the flame is small, place a pot lid over the pan cutting off the oxygen supply to the fire or potentially use a mist bottle, fire extinguisher or directly pour baking soda onto the fire to put it out.

Related Questions

Why Did My Olive Oil Catch on Fire?

Olive oil will catch fire after it begins to heat to its smoke point and flash point. Olive oil will start to boil or “pop” first. Following this, you will notice your olive oil beginning to smoke or “burn.” This is when your olive reaches a dangerous state where it can easily catch fire.

Use the methods discussed previously if your oil does happen to catch fire to help put it out safely and effectively.

Does Olive Oil Burn Off in The Oven?

Yes, if the oven is above 400 degrees, it can still burn in the oven. It’s not the stove causing the fire discussed previously.

It’s the temperature. Using olive oil in the oven when cooking above 400 degrees is not advisable, especially if it’s going to be a long cooking process or a cooking process that will require you to leave the kitchen unattended at times.

Is Heated Olive Oil Bad?

Outside of the potential harmful smoke burning olive oil can give off, heated olive oil shouldn’t cause any harm to you physically.

Sure, it may break down and lose some of its positive traits and characteristics through the cooking and heating process, but nothing takes place that would cause the olive oil to become “bad” or “harmful.”

If you are overly concerned with the heating dangers or fire potentials, you can potentially choose a different olive oil to cook with as well. Look at some of the various flash/smoke points of the different kinds of olive oils.

·         Extra Virgin Olive Oil- 375 F- 405F

·         Virgin Olive Oil- 390 F

·         Pure Olive Oil- 410 F

·         Light Olive Oil- 470 F

Can You Put Olive Oil in A Hot Pan?

Technically, you should add olive oil to a heated pan after the other ingredients have been added. Adding olive oil to a heated pan by itself will cause faster breakdown and potential for the olive oil to burn or catch fire.

Adding cold ingredients to a hot pan is also known to cause damage to the cookware.

Overall, I’d add olive oil before the process and with the other elements already placed into your pan. I wouldn’t just put olive oil only into the pan and begin to heat it. It wouldn’t take long before that sizzle and pop sound would start becoming noticeable.

Is It Worse to Heat Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

No, if you need or choose to heat olive oil, it won’t make a difference of its extra virgin olive oil or regular olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil does have one of the lower temperature flashpoints, but nothing correlates any health damages or health concerns related to heating extra virgin olive oil.

Extra virgin olive oil has been shown to be one of the favorite picks for cooking and not only is safe but can even be a better tasting alternative.

(Last Updated: July 24, 2020)

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