Cooking with Olive Oil

Cooking with Olive Oil

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.

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