How To Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil and The Benefits

The majority of us assume that extra virgin olive oil, or sometimes EVOO in recipe shorthand, is the good stuff. After all, cookbooks call for it specifically, and it has"extra" right there in its own name. But what about its non-extra-virgin siblings that may just be labeled"olive oil" or"light-tasting olive oil"? Are they inferior oils for bargain-hunting plebeians too cheap to pony up for the good stuff?

Not exactly. In fact, if you are using olive oil in a delicately flavored dish, you may even prefer the standard stuff.

Here's why.

Defining extra-virgin olive oil

Extra-virgin olive oil is essentially the oil that's pressed out of olives once the water and pulp parts are eliminated. It can't be heated up or have any chemicals added to it. (Those standards are largely set by non-government groups such as the International Olive Council.

Regular olive oil, on the other hand, has been heated and/or refined. Say a manufacturer presses a bunch of olives intending to make EVOO, but the resulting oil has some off-flavors. The producer can then filter or refine that oil till it's a nearly odorless, colorless oil. Typically, the manufacturer will then blend some yummy extra-virgin olive oil in to add back a bit of aroma and flavor.

Extra-virgin olive oil: 100 percent EVOO

Olive oil: approximately 15 percent EVOO or virgin olive oil blended in

"Light-tasting" olive oil: approximately 5-10 percent EVOO mixed in

When to use olive oil vs. extra-virgin olive oil

Because olive oil and"light-tasting" olive oil dilute EVOO in a less flavorful base acrylic, they're less pungent and sharp-tasting than EVOO itself.

If you want a lighter-tasting oil but still want the health benefits [of olive oil], then use the bottles marked olive oil or light-tasting olive oil,

It makes sense to choose regular olive oil when cooking discreetly flavored dishes like shellfish. If you were cooking seafood with a delicate flavor, you could easily overpower it if you use extra-virgin olive oil.

She says that regular olive oil would also be a smart choice for preserving foods like herbs or vegetables in olive oil, because it will allow the flavors and colors of these ingredients to shine through most clearly.

People today think extra-virgin olive oil is the best, but it should come down to what you're doing, not the price point or color. With all oils, not just olive oil, the oils that have the most flavor are not always the ones that you want to use.

Of course, extra-virgin olive oil is still the gold standard in dishes where you want that rich, peppery flavor: as a dip for bread, in a salad dressing, or drizzled as a pasta topping. However, for those times when you're just using olive oil as a marinade or to sauté ingredients you plan to season, you may want to use a more neutral version like regular olive oil or light-tasting olive oil.