Smoke Point & Sautéing Tips

Olive oil is a versatile ingredient in the kitchen – wonderful in almost any technique.

Extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of about 400° Fahrenheit.

The most common use for extra virgin olive oil is for sautéing. Sautéing is a cooking method where a small amount of fat, in this case extra virgin olive oil, is applied to a shallow pan (uncovered) over high heat for a brief amount of time. The contact with heat allows the vegetable or protein to brown or caramelize without changing its texture completely. California extra virgin olive oil has a high smoke point and an excellent flavor that transfers to the dish during sautéing without overpowering the natural flavors.

Prep your Ingredients

Larger pieces of protein or vegetables are usually cut into small pieces, or aromatics like garlic or onion are typically diced or minced. All ingredients must be dry. Meat, fish or vegetables will naturally release moisture so it is important that they start as dry as possible to achieve optimum caramelization.

Heat the Pan

You will want to heat your pan completely before adding the oil; medium high heat is a good setting for most stoves when using olive oil.

Add the Olive Oil to the Pan

Add a small amount of oil to your pan; enough to lubricate the pans surface, but not to drown the food. In a few moments, it should start shimmering and you will see movement in the surface of the oil. This is the best moment to add your ingredients.

Add your Ingredients to the Pan

Good practice is to not overcrowd your pan. If your pan is not large enough, work in batches. Overcrowding the ingredients leads to uneven cooking or results in ingredients steaming each other as they release moisture, which means you’ll miss the golden brown crust of a good sauté.


Sauté literally means “jump” in French. Tossing and flipping the food ensures that it cooks evenly in the short time, but also it keeps the pan hot.

Finish the Dish

You can add a sauce, seasoning or glaze at the end of sautéing, or, remove the pan from heat, season to your liking and serve.

For fresh ideas of ways to use California extra virgin olive oil in your kitchen, visit our Recipes page.