Is It Safe to Cook Extra Virgin Olive Oil With the Pizza?
This seems to be a concern for a few people. It’s definitely a legitimate question. The smoke point of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is around 215°C. The temperature requirement for Neapolitan pizza is 380-430°C (floor) and 485°C (dome). Obviously the ingredients need time to heat up. They don’t instantly reach a temperature as hot as the oven itself. Since I’m a lazy person, I want to quote the following book: The Neapolitan Pizza – A scientific guide about the artisanal process.
“During the pizza baking process, despite being short (90 seconds), there is a reduction of around 30% of the phenolic fraction, in extra virgin olive oil, both simple (OHTY, Ty) and complex (OHTY-EDA, OHTY-EA, Ty-EA), and of lignans (PR+Ac-PR). This suggests that, from a nutritional point of view, it is more appropriate to garnish pizza with extra virgin olive oil after baking; in this way the intake of its natural, bioactive, healthy components is maximized. Still from a nutritional point of view, the short baking time (60-90 seconds) is insufficient to carbonize the contact surface and reach the smoking point of extra virgin olive oil (210-220 °C); therefore the possibility that during baking harmful compounds such as acrylamide can form in the pizza can be excluded.” – The Neapolitan Pizza – A scientific guide about the artisanal process.
According to this book, it can be excluded that harmful compounds such as acrylamide forms, simply because the cooking time is too short and therefore the EVOO won’t even reach the smoking point.
For Verace Pizza Napoletana it is indispensable to use EVOO but it can make sense to use high-oleic sunflower oil instead of EVOO. High-oleic sunflower oil is quite similar to EVOO in terms of the saturated fat content but it has no taste, yet it will improve the flavour of the other ingredients since fat, in general, is able to transmit the aromas. EVOO, on the other hand, has a somewhat bitter taste to it and might ruin the fine aromas of the tomato sauce. After all, it’s a matter of taste, whether you want the distinct aroma of the EVOO or if you want to highlight the aroma of the tomato sauce.