Cooking Basics: Olive Oil

Cooking Basics: Olive Oil

Get in the know on all things olive oil.

Olive oils are a delicious addition to dips and dressings, as well as a staple in cooking a variety of dishes. Here’s an in-depth look on what olive oils are all about:

Olive Oil Basics
Each type of olive oil varies in color, taste and texture. This can depend on a variety of factors such as the soil, climate and location of where the oil originated. These elements create the character of the oil, while the method of harvest and processing create the type of olive oil.

Different oils also have different purposes. Many versions are multi-purpose, but those with little processing serve best for finishing, while more processed versions are great for cooking (since they have less flavor).

Types of Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
: This oil is best used for bread dipping, salad dressing or drizzling on top of finished dishes. The acidity levels tend to be under one percent so it tastes best when left unheated.

Virgin Olive Oil: This oil contain a higher level of acidity, under two percent, and therefore contains great flavor for dipping, dressings and drizzling. It’s also an all-purpose olive oil, so you can also use it for cooking.

Semi-Virgin Olive Oil: Usually clearer in color and heated, this oil lacks flavor — making it ideal for cooking — and is often combined with other types of oils.

Stock your cabinet with one bottle of an all-purpose variety to use for cooking and finishing dishes, and one bottle of a high-quality extra-virgin variety to use for dips, dressings and drizzling.

Olive Oil Quick Tips


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  • A French olive oil will taste much different than a Spanish olive oil as the color and texture will vary.
  • Ignore light or pure designations on olive oil bottles. More often than not they’re simply marketing tools.
  • “Light” refers to the color and quality, while “virgin” refers to it being cold-pressed and not heated.
  • Premium extra virgin, extra virgin or virgin are generally the most expensive types of olive oil. The oil from the olives is pressed out and unrefined, meaning that zero heat is used to purify or change the chemical makeup of the oil.
  • Olive oils labeled as organic are certifiably so, just as any other fruit or vegetable.

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