All olive oils are graded according to their
acidity. Choosing among them is largely a matter of taste. The best way
to judge an olive oil is by tasting it. Color is not a sign of flavor.
But the label may be of some help. The best olive oils are
"cold-pressed", meaning that no solvents were used in the extraction
process. They have the lowest acidity.
Extra-virgin olive oils are made from the
first pressing of olives and contain only 1 percent acid or less. They
are very rich in flavor, ranging in color from bright gold to deep
green. Extra-virgin oil costs a bit more, so many cooks reserve it for
uncooked dishes or for drizzling in at the end of the cooking time, so
that its flavor is readily enjoyed. Avoid frying with extra-virgin olive
oil because its flavor breaks down at high temperatures.
Virgin olive oil is a blend of virgin and
extra-virgin oils. Pure olive oil is the lowest quality olive oil in the
market. After multiple pressings of olives, and after chemical solvents
have been added to extract even more oil, the dregs are heated to
extract the very last drips of oil. Even at a low price, it's hard to
find a reason to buy this low-quality oil.
Light olive oil has the same amount of fat
as other olive oils. The name refers not to its fat content, but rather
to its light color and extremely mild flavor, a result of being highly
refined. The fine filtration process used to make this oil raises the
oil's smoke point, so it's a good choice for frying. It can also be used
for baking when you don't want a noticeable olive flavor.
If you use olive oil on a regular basis,
keep it in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. For longer storage,
refrigerate it for up to 1 year. Olive will partially solidify at cold
temperatures; simply bring it to rool temperature before using.