No doubt you’ve stood in the condiment isle at the grocery store, staring intently at bottles of oil. Canola and vegetable – those are simple; buy whatever brand’s the cheapest. They have their place in your pantry, but aren’t really the most healthy thing to use for everyday savory cooking.
Enter olive oil; the benefits seem endless – rich taste, it helps to prevent heart disease, it’s beneficial to insulin levels and blood sugar controls, etc.
Yes, the fat content in olive oil is high; however, it’s full of what nutritionists call “good fat,” and used in moderation (and not always in conjunction with butter or margarine), it’s these good fats that create all those healthy benefits.
Let’s go back to the grocery store isle, shall we? Even when you’ve drilled down your focus to the olive oil on the shelves, there are still dozens of brands and tons of different styles to pick from. Depending on the style you pick, the brand and cost don’t really matter much – in other cases brand and cost are a big deal. Confusing right? Hopefully not after reading this!
Here are the 5 major olive oils you’ll find in the average grocery store, and the best ways to use them:
1) Premium Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Here’s where you spend your money, folks. Premium extra-virgin olive oil is rich, flavorful and used for things like dipping breads, drizzling on salads, or even in certain desserts. You don’t want to cook with this olive oil, and you definitely want to store it right – in a dark cabinet, or even in the refrigerator to help maintain its flavor and quality.
2) Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Your go-to olive oil. Versatile, this olive oil can be used raw, mixed with lemon juice and vinegar to make salad dressing. BUT, you can also use extra-virgin olive oil for cooking too. It can’t take high heat as well as canola or vegetable oil, so you don’t necessarily want to pull out your deep fryer, but sauteing or pan searing? Perfect.
3) Virgin Olive Oil
Similar to extra-virgin olive oil, except with higher acidity – which means you can cook at high temps. Beautiful!
4) Pure Olive Oil
Often times you’ll see this referred to as “100% pure” on the label. Like virgin olive oil, pure olive oil also has high acidity; however, it’s made by mixing virgin olive oil and refined olive oil. The upside is that it has higher acidity, so you can use it in high-heat cooking. The downside is that the flavor’s not great, and neither are the nutritional benefits – so don’t use it for your next vinaigrette.
5) Lite Olive Oil
Olive oil with nearly zero virgin olive oil. Don’t misunderstand, the “lite” in the title doesn’t refer to a healthier, less fatty olive oil. Rather, it means the color is light. Yes, it’s that simple. I wouldn’t bother with lite olive oil – save your money and buy a better extra-virgin variety.
About Liza Hawkins
With her down-to-earth approach to food, and a dash or two of snark, Liza enjoys eating, reading, cooking, dining and writing on a daily basis. By day, she's an insurance professional, by night she gracefully (or not sometimes) barrels through life keeping up with her blog (a)Musing Foodie, other freelance writing jobs, non-profit work, Twitter and Facebook, her kids, her husband, and whatever else happens to fill her plate. Read her blog here: www.amusingfoodie.com