Choosing the right oil for cooking and dressing can get confusing - here are SupermarketGuru's tips on the best uses for olive oil
The factors that go into producing a great wine are similar to those for producing great oil: oil variety, climate, soil ripeness at harvest and age all help to determine the qualities of an olive oil. So, cooking with olive oil is akin to cooking with wine. The best-quality product and an enjoyable flavor profile are essential. Remember, a high price does not guarantee quality; be sure to read the labels when selecting olive oils, and sampling (whenever possible) is the best way to discover an oil you’ll enjoy.
Extra virgin olive oil or EVOO is the finest and fruitiest of olive oil grades. It’s also the most expensive with a color ranging from deep hues of gold to greenish-gold to a bright, grassy green. Birthed from the first cold press of the olives, it is only 1 percent acid and shines when used for salads, dressings and vinaigrettes; drizzled on baked potatoes, pasta or cooked vegetables; brushed before serving onto fish or meat; or as a replacement for butter when making mashed potatoes. Enjoy the subtleties of the flavors drizzled over a hearty soup just before serving or over toast rubbed with garlic and sprinkled with herbs.
Don’t fry away your money - the International Olive Oil Institute recommends using pure olive oil for frying, since the flavor of higher-priced EVOO tends to break down at frying temperatures. Still, it’s fine to cook with inexpensive EVOO or virgin oil, or a combination of grades. When used in frying applications, olive oil forms a crust on the surface of the food that impedes the penetration of oil and improves its flavor. Food fried in olive oil has a lower fat content than food fried in other oils, making olive oil more suitable for weight control.
In proper temperature conditions, without overheating, olive oil undergoes no substantial structural change and keeps its nutritional value better than other oils, not only because of the antioxidants but also due to its high levels of oleic acid. Its high smoking point (410 degrees Fahrenheit or 210 degrees Celsius) is substantially higher than the ideal temperature for frying food (356 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius). Those fats with lower critical points, such as corn and butter, break down at this temperature and can lead to toxicity issues.
By stocking an assortment of oils at home, you can be ready to select whichever oil you prefer for specific uses. Just remember that olive oil is a perishable product. Proper storage - in a cool place out of the sun - will aid in its preservation. Olive oils are best consumed within a year of harvest and within a few months of opening the bottle.