Olive oil adds incredible flavour to any dish. It helps enhance spicy or sweet dishes and is almost guilt free with its many health benefits. There are many different grades and types of olive oil and we will help you differentiate between them. Once you know the difference you can decide which way to use them. It is less important to focus on where the Olive Oil is derived from because while originally Spain, Greece and Italy were the top contenders; now places like California have gained popularity.
Grades of Olive Oil
Olive oil is graded on how the olives are processed and the acidity level of the final product. There are three basic edible grades of olive oil and other types within that grade.
Extra Virgin: the difference between the oils may only vary a percentage but this is what determines the differences. Extra virgin olive oil should only be made by mechanical means to keep the results fresh and retain all the health benefits. The cold press keeps the potent flavour and the oil has a lower level of oleic acid, no more than 1%. Using extra virgin straight from the bottle drizzled on or into your recipes is the best use but if you are cooking use a low heat so you don't degrade the oil.
Uses for Extra Virgin Olive Oil:
- drizzle on top of your salad
- sauté meat or vegetables
- drizzle over fresh Italian bread
- add to finish a hot dish to give that silky finish
Virgin: this is the next grade of Olive Oil. It is made using a similar process as the extra virgin olive oil and is also unrefined oil. This process is only done by mechanical means and without heat, but is less strict than extra virgin. Virgin olive oil has a oleic acid level of not more than 2 grams per 100 grams. It remains a pure taste but it is not as full as extra virgin.
Pure Olive Oil: the next grade is the pure olive oil. This oil still has healthy monounsaturated fats but it does not contain the amount of minerals and vitamins as the others. Heat used in the processing of the oil takes away the super healthy punch and makes it a more neutral flavour. Use it as an option for frying, grilling and baking where you still want a healthier option.
Uses for Pure Olive Oil:
- baking recipes or a butter substitute
- mayo substitute
- create a marinade with lemon, salt and pepper
How to store Olive Oil
Store Olive Oil in a cool and dark place to avoid sunlight and heat. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat so it allows you to keep it two years unopened but after opening you will want to use it within a few months as exposure to air leads to oxidization which can turn your oil rancid.
Monounsaturated fats within olive oil are a healthy fat and is helpful when trying to lower cholesterol. Keeping in mind it is a healthier fat but, is still high in calories so use in moderation.
It has many great uses outside the kitchen and within your household. You can use it when shaving or rub into cuticles to avoid hangnails; add it to your pet's food to keep their coats healthy; mix olive oil and lemon juice to make a green furniture polish.