Olive Oil 101

Olive oil has been the hallmark of the healthy Mediterranean Diet for over 2,500 years. It adds vibrant flavors and textures to Mediterranean foods and is high in healthy, monounsaturated fats along with antioxidants. Simply drizzle it on cooked fish or vegetables, or use it as a dip for bread. Vegetables roasted, grilled, or sautéed in olive oil are simply tastier – so you’ll find yourself eating more of them!

Olive Oil Flavors

Olives are the fruit of the olive tree. Soon after being picked, they’re cleaned in a water bath and then crushed into a mash. This mash has three unique parts: olive solids, olive water, and olive oil. First, the olive solids are separated. Next, the olive water and oil are quickly separated to keep the olive water from changing the oil’s taste and odor. Finally, the oil is bottled.

The best quality olive oils are obtained from the first pressing of the olives and are “cold pressed.” This means they’re not heated during the pressing process. Heating produces larger amounts of oil, but decreases important flavor and healthy compounds, including flavenols and polyphenols, abundant in extra-virgin olive oil.

Olive Oil Grades

Olive oil is graded on taste, acidity level, and processing method. The table below lists the main types of olive oil in order of decreasing quality.

Grade Description Taste Uses
Extra Virgin Highest quality oil made from first pressing with no heat or chemicals Superior Dips, salads and drizzled on fish
Virgin Lacks perfect taste of extra-virgin, but not refined Good Frying, grilling and roasting
Olive Blend of virgin and refined (chemically treated) oils Lacks Flavor When flavor is not needed
Light The word “light” means the oil has been refined, not that it is lower fat. Lacks Flavor When flavor is not needed
Pomace Lowest quality made by blending virgin and pomace Lacks Flavor Frying or cooking

 

 

Buying and Storing Olive Oil

The four foes of olive oil are age, heat, air, and light. When you buy olive oil, make sure it is no more than 18 months old. (Look at the bottling date on the label.) At home, store olive oil in a cool, dark place.

Cooking with Olive Oil

Sautéing
There’s no better way to bring out the flavor of vegetables and seafood than sautéing. It’s an easy, healthy way to prepare your favorite dishes. To sauté, pour olive oil into a cold skillet or sauté pan and heat over low heat. When the oil is heated through, add the food item. Stir, toss, or turn until cooked and enjoy!

Baking Substitutions
Butter Olive Oil
1 tsp 3/4 tsp
2 tsp 1 1/2 tsp
1 Tbsp 2 1/4 tsp
2 Tbsp 1 1/2 Tbsp
1/4 cup 3 Tbsp
1/3 cup 1/4 cup
1/2 cup 1/4 cup +
2 Tbsp
2/3 cup 1/2 cup
3/4 cup 1/2 cup +
1 Tbsp
1 cup 3/4 cup

Baking
Baking with olive oil, instead of butter, cuts the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in your favorite recipes.

Olive oil produces lighter-tasting breads, brownies, biscotti, and cakes. Even more good news – you need less olive oil than butter when baking! See chart on right.

Frying
Frying in olive oil leaves food less greasy, and crunchier, than frying in other fats. Also, foods fried in olive oil have less cholesterol and saturated fat than foods fried in most other fats. Here are some tips when frying with olive oil:

  • Deep fry at 350 to 365 ºF, and heat the oil slowly.
  • Use enough oil to properly cover foods.
  • Avoid putting too much food in the oil at once.
  • Place food on wire racks after cooking to drain excess fat

 

 

For 12 Great Ways to Use Olive Oil, click here

 

 

 

 

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