Ask Chef Boy Ari
Q: Dear Chef,
I hear you're not supposed to use olive oil for frying. But I'm vegan, so my oil options are limited, and olive oil is my favorite! If it's true that olive oil is bad for frying, can you recommend a substitute?
A: The frying-
Different olive oil extraction processes produce different varieties, including "light" (highly filtered), "virgin" (low acidity, no refined oils), "extra-
Of all olive oils, "extra-
For the hottest frying, consider refined safflower oil, which has a smoke point above 500° F. Whatever oil you use, if it does smoke, toss the oil, wash the pan and start again. Even if the oil doesn't smoke, there are reasons to reconsider cooking in hot oil.
Scientists have been discovering a growing number of molecules, carcinogenic or otherwise toxic, that are formed when food is cooked at high heat. Heterocyclic amines, for example, are very nasty, and they form when meat is heated above 392° F in the presence of oil. And even fry-pan vegans like yourself can still worry about acrylamide, which is found in potato chips, roasted nuts and flaked breakfast cereals. Like heterocyclic amines, acrylamide forms only at high temps.
So instead of worrying about which oil is best, why not just turn down the heat? Frying slowly, at low temperatures, can still produce that satisfying brown exterior crisp. Fewer harmful molecules will be produced, and more of the nutrients in your food will survive the cooking and make it into your body.
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