Virgin olive oils were subjected to simulated common domestic processing, including frying, microwave heating, and boiling with water in a pressure cooker. The impact of these processes on polyphenol content and physicochemical characteristics of oils was assessed. Thermal oxidation of oils at 180 degrees C caused a significant decrease in hydroxytyrosol- and tyrosol-like substances. In contrast, oils heated for 25 h still retained a high proportion of the lignans 1-acetoxypinoresinol and pinoresinol. Thermal oxidation also resulted in a rapid degradation of alpha-tocopherol and the glyceridic fraction of oils. Microwave heating of oils for 10 min caused only minor losses in polyphenols, and the oil degradation was lower than that in thermoxidation assays. Again, lignans were the least affected polyphenols and did not change during microwave heating. Boiling a mixture of virgin olive oil and water in a pressure cooker for 30 min provoked the hydrolysis of the secoiridoid aglycons and the diffusion of the free phenolics hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol from the oil to the water phase. Losses of polyphenols were detected only at pH lower than 6. Moreover, alpha-tocopherol and the glyceridic fraction of oils were not modified during this process. It is worth noting that all the heating methods assayed resulted in more severe polyphenols losses and oil degradation for Arbequina than for Picual oil, which could be related to the lower content in polyunsaturated fatty acids of the latter olive cultivar. These findings may be relevant to the choice of cooking method and olive oil cultivar to increase the intake of olive polyphenols.