Olive oil is known for its terrific health benefits, and it just happens to be one of our favorite kitchen ingredients. Found in many varieties with labels such as “extra virgin” or “pure,” olive oil is more than just a dressing, but an ingredient in a myriad of baked and fried dishes. In this article, we help you select the right olive oil for your creation.
When on the hunt for the perfect variety of olive oil, the first thing you need to do is ask yourself how much olive flavor you’re looking for in your recipe. Next, look for an olive oil that will survive (i.e. high-heat frying) and enhance the meal you’re making.
If you answered: TONS OF OLIVE FLAVOR!
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil provides the richest olive flavor, and the most health benefits, because it is essentially “raw.” The extra virgin variety of oil comes from the first pressing of olives, with no heat or chemicals used to extract the oil. This process, otherwise known as “cold-pressing,” preserves the natural antioxidants and “good” monounsaturated fat that promotes healthy cholesterol levels. Extra virgin olive oil tends to be golden-green with an intense fruitiness and a light, peppery finish that makes it the obvious choice when you want to really experience olive flavor. Extra virgin is the optimal choice for using in dressings and drizzles, where its flavor can be savored in raw form.
Salads of all kinds can benefit from a good olive oil and a spritz of vinegar.
Top steamed or roasted vegetables.
Use for sautéing vegetables or meats.
Finish roasted or grilled meats with a drizzle.
Use in Italian breads like pizza crust, focaccia and olive bread.
Drizzle over fresh vegetables.
Use for dipping crusty breads along with specialty spices.
Add a touch of oil atop hot dishes, like soups or pastas, for a silky texture— the heat releases its aroma.
If you answered: A little olive flavor, but don’t knock me out with it!
Pure Olive Oil
Pure olive oil has the same health-promoting monounsaturated fats as extra virgin olive oil, but it doesn’t pack the same antioxidant punch. because it is not cold-pressed (raw). The heat used in the extraction process for pure olive oil disperses the antioxidants. The pure variety does provide a more neutral flavor and lighter golden color than extra virgin, so it’s great for cooking and baking where you want a touch of that olive essence. It’s also great for grilling, frying, roasting and sautéing vegetables and meats.
Create a salad dressing with fresh herbs and a tangy vinegar.
Combine with lemon juice and black pepper for a classic marinade.
Use on roasted or braised meats (and accompanying veggies!)
The perfect frying companion for breaded meats, vegetable appetizers and more.
Substitute the mayo in your favorite potato or macaroni salad recipe.
If you answered: No olive flavor, please!
Extra Light Olive Oil
Extra light olive oil is only light in olive flavor, not in calories. All olive oil has the same calorie count, and like pure olive oil, it offers healthy monounsaturated fats. With a neutral flavor, this light oil is perfect for baking sweet and savory goods, where olive flavor might be undesirable. Extra light olive oil also works well for sautéing, grilling and frying. Due to filtering, its high smoke point makes it great for high-heat frying. Consider this your standard pour if you prefer your oil to just quietly do its job.
Substitute for butter in cakes, cookies, muffins and pancakes.
Use in breads, focaccias or pizza crust.
A great supporting role alongside creamy sauces in hot and cold pasta dishes.
The best olive oil for frying without imparting an olive flavor—breaded meats and vegetables, polenta, appetizers and more.
Use it to grease grills, griddles or pans where flatbreads will be flipped. (To avoid smoking the oil, grease grills and pans before heating, and don’t overheat.)