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QuestionDear Kurma,
Can we cook with olive oil (first cold pressing, extra virgin)?

PMD, Mayapur, West Bengal, India

AnswerDear PMD

Thanks for your enquiry.

As you may know, in Italy most frying/cooking is done with olive oil, there is no harm in this. But whereas there are no health disadvantages in heating a high quality olive oil (as long as you don't allow it to smoke) it is a bit of a waste, since heating extra virgin olive oil will cause it to lose some of its flavour, so it is best to use lower quality and hence cheaper olive oil for cooking.

Here is some information about olive oils.

Extra virgin olive oils are produced from the first pressing, which is performed within 24 to 72 hours of harvesting. Mechanical or hand pressing are the only methods used to obtain extra virgin olive oil. No heat or chemical processes are used. The oil obtained from the first pressing is the only olive oil that can be classified as extra virgin (or virgin, depending on the natural acidity level).

"Premium Extra Virgin" refers to the best olive oil possible in terms of acidity, quality, aroma, and flavor. Some brands may have natural acidity rates as low as 0.225%. Because it is the most expensive, it is best to use premium extra virgin for dishes in which the olive oil will not be heated, such as in salads or as a condiment. Heating olive oil will cause it to lose some of its flavor so it is best to use lower quality oil for cooking.

To be classified as extra virgin, the acidity level of the olive oil can be no greater than 1%. Like premium extra virgin, it is best to use extra virgin for dishes in which the olive oil will not be heated, such as in salads or as a condiment.

Virgin olive oil grades are produced in the same manner as extra virgin grades. The oil is not refined or processed after pressing. The natural acidity levels are greater than extra virgin grades, ranging from 1.5% to 3.3%. The flavor and aroma of virgin olive oil is of the highest quality. The oil obtained from the first pressing is the only olive oil that can be classified as virgin (or extra virgin, depending on the natural acidity level).

Fine virgin grade is a high quality olive oil with a maximum acidity level of 1.5%. It is less expensive than extra virgin grades, which makes it an excellent substitute when budget is a consideration.

Virgin olive oil has a maximum acidity of 2% and can be used just like any of the higher grades. It is much more reasonably priced and is versatile in that it can be used generously in cooking and yet it has enough flavor to be used in salads or as a condiment.

Semi-fine virgin olive oil has a maximum acidity level of 3.3%. It has good flavor, but it is less tasty than higher grades. It has the same health benefits as any of the higher grades and is best used in cooking.

Those labelled as just "Olive Oil" or "Pure Olive Oil" is a blend of refined oil and virgin or extra virgin olive oil. Refined olive oil has no taste or smell, so the virgin or extra virgin olive oil is added to provide both.

Products labeled "Olive Oil" or "Pure Olive Oil" usually have a ratio of 85% refined oil to 15% virgin or extra virgin olive oil. "Olive oil" is less expensive and has less flavor and aroma than higher grades of olive oil. The maximum acidity level may not exceed 1.5% (after the addition of the virgin or extra virgin oil) in order for the oil to be designated "Olive Oil" or "Pure Olive Oil". The "Olive Oil" grade has the same health benefits of the higher quality virgin and extra virgin grades. It also has a higher smoking point than virgin or extra virgin oil, making it an excellent choice for cooking.

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