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All About Olive Oil

Created January 11, 2017
With so many varieties of olive oil flooding supermarket shelves, it’s a slippery business to select the one that fits your needs.

  • Extra Virgin: Considered the finest olive oil—and called EVOO by celebrity chefs—it’s  made from the first cold pressing of olives. The result is very mild and delicate flavor. Color ranges from a light yellow-gold to green-gold to green. Generally, the darker the color, the more olive flavor you will taste.  Save EVOO for drizzling on salads, splashing on pasta as a finishing touch or for dipping with crusty bread.  For one thing, it is too costly. For a second, any but low heat lessens its flavor.

  • Virgin: Also made from the first pressing, this olive oil has a sharper flavor. Virgin olive oil is good for cooking vegetables and meats that require brief cooking times.

  • Fino: A blend of extra-virgin and virgin olive oils.

  • Pure: This is the mildest-flavored olive oil and is made from a combination of refined virgin and extra-virgin olive oils. Good for all-purpose cooking.

  • Light: A confusing term because it refers to the color, not the fat or calorie content. This olive oil is similar to vegetable oil, which makes it good for any cooking where you don’t want a pronounced olive oil flavor.

Oils add body to dressings and range in flavor from earthy and nutty to neutral of fruity and mildly sweet. Recipes often call for a specific oil designed to complement the ingredients, but feel free to experiment with a different oil or combination of oils.

Vegetable Oils (often generically labeled as vegetable oil; check label for oil source)
Canola, Corn, Soybean, Sunflower Delicate/neutral
Peanut Mildly buttery
Safflower Mildly nutty
Olive Oils
Olive Oil and Light Olive Oil Delicate/neutral; golden color and mild flavor
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fruity olive flavor that is stronger than regular olive oil; golden to green or bright green color
Nut Oils (highly flavorful; start with a small amount, adding more as needed.)
Almond Nutty, mildly sweet
Avocado Nutty, sharp
Hazelnut Nutty, rich
Walnut Mildly nutty
Sesame Oil (highly flavorful; start with a small amount, adding more as needed.)
Sesame Oil, light Nutty, light color
Sesame Oil, dark (also called Asian) Strong toasted sesame seed flavor;
amber color