olives and bottled olive oil on wooden table

A Brief Guide to Olive Oil Basics

When you try the perfect olive oil for the first time, you immediately fall in love. The velvety taste, the natural aroma – it is enough to satiate the sense at least until dessert time. Though you’re a huge fan of olive oil, it is very likely you’re unaware of what it takes to bring this condiment to your table. We’ll introduce you to a brief guide on olive oils so you can get a better understanding of this beloved ingredient.

How is Olive Oil Made?

The olive oil we use in our homes and consume at restaurants is made through an extraction process which requires six steps: harvesting, processing, malaxation, pressing, refining, and bottling. Depending on the brand, the harvesting process is either done by hand or with a machine once annually. Then, the olives are separated and broken down into a crushed paste. This paste is mixed with water and stirred by a machine called a malaxer, which helps extract the oil.

After malaxation, the olive oil is either pressed or put through a decanter, otherwise known as a centrifuge. The oil is sometimes refined as well, depending on the quality of the olives. Extra virgin olive oil is of high quality, so there is no refinement necessary. Once these steps are completed, the olive oil is bottled and shipped to the retail location.

Types of Olive Oil

Let’s review the most common types of olive oil you may have come across on your food journey.

Light olive oil: This olive oil tends to be used for cooking foods at high temperatures or for baking purposes. Since it has more of a neutral flavor, it is a decent substitute for vegetable oil.

Pure olive oil: This type of olive oil needs to be refined for a few reasons. The olives aren’t of the highest quality and the acidity level is over 3% – the refinement process extracts any bad flavors or weird smells, revealing an oil that is light in color and mild in flavor.

Virgin olive oil: This oil type does not need to be refined like other olive oils. Virgin olive oil carries an acidity of < 2%. Extra virgin olive oil tends to be in retail stores a lot more than virgin olive oil, so it is likely you haven’t come across or used this very often.

Extra virgin olive oil: Since this olive oil is such high quality, it requires no refinement. There is no need to chemically or heat-treat this oil. The taste is strong and flavorful, and the color tends to be darker than the oil types above. You can use this to cook, but it works well for dressings and marinades where you can get the full impact of the flavor.

Which Olive Oil is Right for Me?

Most of the time, you may find yourself gravitating toward extra virgin olive oil. This is because of the rich flavor and smooth taste, along with the fact that it consists of premium olives. It works well for dips and marinades, as this form of consumption allows you to take in the full depth of the olive oil.

However, if you find yourself making a cake or other desserts, you may choose light olive oil to not overwhelm your senses. With olive oil cakes, you can use extra virgin since the olive oil is the center focus of the dessert. You may be averse to using pure olive oil unless you’re on a tight budget. 

Olive Oil Cooking Tips

Below are a few key tips for cooking with olive oil!

  • Beware of the smoke point: Olive oil tends to have a smoke point of 375°F to 405°F, so be careful to not heat it to a higher degree than this or you’ll risk a burnt, unpleasant flavor.
  • Watch out for splatter: As with any oil, olive oil can pop and splatter in a pan when met with herbs and other ingredients. Always wear protective clothing and refrain from wearing short sleeves or pants when cooking on the stove with olive oil
  • Don’t try to deep fry: You’re not going to get the same results as vegetable or canola oil if you try to deep fry chicken with olive oil. Since olive oil tends to be more expensive than these types aways, it is best to stick to cheaper oils with a higher smoke point to prevent that burnt flavor.

Now that you’re an olive oil connoisseur, you can move on to creating delicious homemade dishes of all sorts. For classic Italian meals made with plenty of incredible olive oil, visit Nico Boston today and make a reservation for the perfect dinner.

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