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Do you use olive oil to cook ground beef?

Ground beef is a versatile and popular ingredient used in many dishes worldwide. How you prepare and cook ground beef can make a big difference in the flavor and texture of the final dish. One question home cooks often ask is whether olive oil should be used to cook ground beef. There are pros and cons to cooking ground beef with olive oil versus other oils or fats. In this article, we’ll explore the factors to consider when deciding whether to use olive oil for cooking ground beef.

Quick Pros and Cons of Using Olive Oil to Cook Ground Beef

Here is a quick overview of the potential benefits and drawbacks of using olive oil to cook ground beef:

Potential Benefits:

– Olive oil offers health benefits – It contains healthy fats and antioxidants. Using olive oil rather than butter or other less healthy fats can make the dish healthier overall.

– Olive oil has a high smoke point – The smoke point of extra virgin olive oil ranges from 375°F to 405°F. This makes it suitable for sautéing or frying ground beef without burning.

– Olive oil adds flavor – The flavor of olive oil can enhance the taste of ground beef, adding notes of fruitiness and pepperiness.

Potential Drawbacks:

– Olive oil has a low burn temperature – While olive oil has a high smoke point, its low burn temperature of 320°F-375°F means it’s not ideal for searing meats at very high heat.

– Olive oil flavor may not always be desirable – The distinctive flavor of olive oil could clash with some seasoned ground beef dishes or overpower more delicate flavors.

– Olive oil is expensive – Using olive oil to cook ground beef every day could get pricey compared to other cooking oils or fats.

Factors to Consider When Cooking Ground Beef with Olive Oil

Deciding whether to use olive oil ultimately depends on several factors:

1. The Olive Oil Type

Not all olive oils are created equal. The variety of olive and processing methods impact the smoke point, flavor, and appropriateness for cooking:

– Extra virgin olive oil – The highest quality and lowest smoke point, best for uncooked uses or brief sautéing. Not ideal for high heat cooking.

– Virgin olive oil – Slightly higher smoke point than extra virgin, good for light sautéing or stir-frying. Provides olive flavor.

– Refined olive oil – Higher smoke point since it’s chemically processed. More neutral in flavor. Better for frying or sautéing at higher heats.

– Pure olive oil – A blend of refined and virgin olive oils. Moderate smoke point and olive flavor. A good all-purpose option.

– Light olive oil – Refined olive oil blended with other oils. Higher smoke point but little olive taste. Works for high heat cooking.

2. The Olive Oil Amount

Use olive oil sparingly rather than pooling a lot in the pan. Just 1-2 tbsp should be enough to lightly coat the pan and prevent sticking. Excess olive oil may burn or add unwanted flavors.

3. Cooking Temperatures

The temperature you cook the ground beef at matters. Olive oil can work for quick sautéing over medium heat. But very high heat searing may exceed olive oil’s ideal temperature range and lead to burning. Opt for an oil with a higher smoke point here.

4. Other Ingredients and Flavors

Consider whether olive oil’s flavor will complement or compete with other ingredients in the dish. The fruitiness of olive oil can accent flavors like tomatoes, wine, garlic, or herbs. But may clash with seasoned taco meat, meatloaf, or highly spiced burgers.

5. Nutritional Priorities

If health is a priority, olive oil provides benefits over butter, bacon grease, or lard when cooking ground beef. But other oils like avocado or grapeseed oil also provide healthy fats for less cost.

6. Budget

Regular olive oil use can increase the grocery budget. Cooking with pure olive oil instead of extra virgin can help cut costs. Or use olive oil judiciously along with other more budget friendly oils.

Best Uses for Olive Oil When Cooking Ground Beef

Here are some of the best ways to use olive oil when cooking ground beef:

Sauteeing Aromatics

Olive oil shines when used to gently cook aromatics like onions, garlic, mushrooms, and bell peppers as the base for ground beef dishes. Sauté over medium heat before adding the meat.


Toss ground beef with olive oil to stir-fry over medium-high heat. The oil prevents sticking while adding flavor. Finish with soy sauce, oyster sauce, or teriyaki for Asian-inspired dishes.

Meat Sauce

Sauté ground beef in olive oil before simmering in tomato sauce. The olive oil nicely balances the acidity of the tomatoes.

Meatballs and Meatloaf

For savory meatballs or meatloaf, replace some of the fat content with olive oil. Use about 1-2 tablespoons per pound of ground beef.


Brush olive oil lightly over burger patties before grilling or pan-frying. This adds moisture and richness. Or mix a small amount into burger mixes.

Olive Oil Cooking Tips

Here are some tips for successfully cooking ground beef with olive oil:

– Choose an olive oil with a medium-high smoke point like pure or light olive oil.

– Heat the oil in the pan before adding ground beef to prevent sticking.

– Use medium heat for sautéing to avoid burning olive oil.

– Add olive oil to flavors like garlic, onions, herbs early to infuse the oil.

– Combine olive oil with butter or other oils when searing at higher temperatures.

– Let cooked ground beef rest a few minutes to reabsorb any oils.

– Add a splash of lemon or vinegar to finished dishes to brighten the olive oil notes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is cooking ground beef with olive oil healthy?

Yes, using a moderate amount of olive oil to cook ground beef is healthier than using butter, lard, or bacon grease. Olive oil provides monounsaturated fats that are beneficial for heart health.

What’s the smoke point of olive oil?

The smoke point varies based on olive oil type, from 320°F for extra virgin up to 405°F for light and refined olive oils. For cooking ground beef, a pure or light olive oil with a smoke point over 375°F is best.

Does olive oil burn at high heat?

Yes, olive oil can burn if heated above its smoke point, turning bitter and losing its flavor. Avoid very high heat like grilling or broiling with olive oil. Opt for oils with higher smoke points here.

Should you sear meat in olive oil?

You can use a mix of olive oil and a high heat oil like avocado or grapeseed to get the flavor of olive oil when searing meat. But avoid searing solely in olive oil, which can burn.

What oil is best for cooking burgers?

For cooking burgers, avocado oil and ghee work well for their high smoke points. You can also use a blend of oils like olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter for flavor.


Olive oil can be an excellent choice when cooking ground beef in moderation and at the right temperatures. Its beneficial fats, antioxidant content, and flavor provide an edge over less healthy fats. But there are times when olive oil isn’t the best fit due to its lower smoke point and strong flavor. Consider the recipe, ingredients, and cooking method when deciding between olive oil and other oils. With the right techniques, olive oil can be a tasty addition to healthy ground beef dishes.