I stood in the grocery today, perusing the large containers of olive oil, as I usually do when I’m getting low. I use enough of it that I buy it in Quantity. I have a little bottle sitting next to the stove which I refill every few weeks as needed. I use it for nearly all my oily needs, excluding baking for things such as cakes and muffins.
But as I say, I’m standing there looking at the oil offerings and I notice that “Olive Oil” is substantially cheaper than “Extra Virgin Olive Oil.” I understand that the virgin and extra virgin is from a first press and better quality, somehow.
But come on. I’m no philistine, but I don’t really know the difference between high quality, extra pure, squeezed from the hearts of virgins oil and just plain old “olive oil.” I think I gleaned from reading cookbooks and recipes that the virgin is desirable for salad dressing, which I do use it for, but how much better?
Mainly I use it for sauteeing vegetables, making pizza (dough and sauce) and various other homey needs. I’m not a gourmet, though I do consider myself a decent cook.
I went ahead and bought the regular Olive Oil, saving $3 on the 3-liter can. Will I be disappointed in the flavor/performance/whatever? Or is Rachel Ray and her EVOO just a bunch of hooey that the hoi polloi have bought into in some attempt to be Cooking Channel-ready?
I await the thoughts of all our wonderful Doper cooks and chefs.
Plain olive oil is usually a combination of virgin and refined oils. It has higher acidity than virgin/extra virgin, and usually no strong or distinctive flavor. Nothing wrong with it for sauteing, but I wouldn’t use it on a salad or as a bread dip.
Extra Virgin is the first oil that comes out of the press. It contains a lot more of the olive flavor components. This makes it good for salad dressings or for sprinkling on food at the table, but not for frying, as the extra stuff in it burn easily.
ETA: There are a lot of different extra virgin oils, and some discuss their qualities like they do with good wines.
The olive oil business has been a hotbed of fraud and corruption for at least a couple thousand years. Even if you buy the “better” name brand oils in the grocery store, it is likely the oil has been mixed with other types of cheaper oil and/or treated with heat or chemical processes that are not permitted for pure extra virgin olive oil.
The stuff simply labeled “olive oil” will do fine for cooking. High heat destroys much of the character of real extra virgin oil anyway.
If you want to try a better olive oil without getting into the gourmet (pronounced ‘very expensive’) aspect of it, try California Olive Ranch. It is fairly widely available in the US. The web page has a Store Locator.
One of the qualities olive oil must have to be considered extra virgin is a peppery sensation in the back of the throat; the California Olive Ranch oil has it. This is not a cooking oil – drizzle it over the food on the plate, dip your bread, make your salad dressing, or just take a spoonful. You will find it to be quite different from the Bertolli and the like grocery store brands that you may have tried.
Whatever you do, just don’t get the “light olive oil”. That’s olive oil that’s been carefully processed to remove all trace of the olive oil flavor. If that’s what you want, you might as well just get Canola.
Gotcha. I forgot that we like to eat it on bread and that would call for the extra-virgin then. I think I’ll save some of the extra-virgin I have for salad and this use and go ahead and use this other for my cooking.
The brand I got was Botticelli. It sounds all Italian and everything but I don’t have any illusions of high-quality. (It does have a nice picture of Athena on the can though.)
I bought some California Olive Ranch and was disappointed. It tasted…just bland. No real flavor. The best olive oil I’ve found was Pampa, from Argentina. It’s like OLIVE KABAM! Really, I had no idea olive oil could be this yummy. It was cheap, too. Sadly, I can’t remember where I bought it and I can’t find it again.
Lucini is an excellent oil and can be found in most stores. Runs about $18. Oregon Olive Mill makes some excellent, peppery olive oils. The Arbequina is very good. For all around EVOO, either Trader Joe or Costco’s Kirkwood brand are perfectly serviceable and much less expensive oils.
The price for the Costco Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil doesn’t seem right to me. I remember paying something like $10-$15 for a liter and a half. This blog post seems to agree. Although the last time I was at Costco, I don’t remember seeing the organic version, just the regular one (which is okay, too, but different. I prefer the organic, not because it’s “organic” – I don’t really pay attention to that stuff – but because it tastes better to me.)
If you like lighter, more neutral olive oils, yes. When I use olive oil, it’s for one reason, it’s because I like the fruity, peppery flavor of it (well, it depends on what kind), and I have not found a heat-treated oil that gives me that delicious flavor. (And there’s plenty of olive oils labeled as extra-virgin that I find bitter and unpalatable.)
The processed kind tastes more neutral, without that phyto-botanical sense you get with EV. The neutral effect is what I want when cooking with garlic, tomato, olives and capers. It brings out the magic of those ingredients. Without olive oil, you’ll just wonder why you stock up on so much olives and capers and canned tomatoes.
That’s fine. I’m not sure what “phyto-botanical” means, but, like I said, when I’m using extra virgin, it’s because I want that flavor in my dish, otherwise, I’m using something like canola or sunflower or corn oil. (Unless I want the flavor of lard or butter in my food). IOW, olive oil, to me, I use culinarily as a flavor.