By Robert L. Wolke,
Q. My mother says extra-virgin olive oil should not be used for cooking because it can be dangerous to one’s health at high temperatures. She tells me that it should be used only for salad dressing. Is that true? If not, what can I say to her to convince her that it is false?
A. Extra-virgin olive oil is no more hazardous to cook with than any other vegetable oil.
Here’s what you can say: “Sorry, Mom: There are no health risks in olive oil. But you’re right in line with most experts, who recommend using extra-virgin olive oil only for salad dressing and other table uses rather than for frying. I know you’re too smart to waste an expensive oil with great flavor by frying fish in it.”
The “extra virgin” label implies nothing about the effects of heat on the oil. It is the olive oil producers’ designation of their finest and least processed products. The International Olive Oil Council sets the standards for olive oils throughout most of the world (but not in the United States, which doesn’t belong to the council) as follows, in decreasing order of quality and, usually, price: Extra-virgin, virgin, refined (formerly labeled “pure olive oil”) and olive oil (with no qualifier).
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