Hints and Tips

Types of Olive Oils and their Uses

Single estate and Premium extra virgin oils

These are the very best olive oils. They are likely to have the most interesting flavours and the highest levels of polyphenols. They come from small producers who use their own olives or olives from farmers with whom they have worked for many years.

Find them in specialist grocers, delicatessens, farm shops and on-line.

Use them for dipping and for finishing and dressing food like salads, soups, pasta, vegetables and bruschetta. They are also good for adding flavour to grilled foods, pot roasts and casseroles.

Branded extra virgin oils

These are olive oils which are packed by medium to large producers and by co-operatives using a brand name.

Find them in supermarkets and general grocery stores.

The best of these can be used in much the same way as premium oils.  The cheaper mass-produced brands can be quite pleasant but they tend to be rather bland and my not have the full health benefits of premium oils.  Use in everyday cooking.

Ordinary olive oil

This is a mass-produced product which is not as expensive as extra virgin olive oil.  Unlike the first three oils it is made from refined olive oil mixed with a little extra virgin oil to give it a slight flavor.  Though it is a better choice than other vegetable cooking oils, it is not as healthy as extra virgin olive oil.  However, it is good choice for recipes such as mayonnaise  where you do not want too strong a flavor or for people who just do not like the taste of olive oil.

Olive Pomace oil

This is another mass-produced product. It is made from oil extracted from the residue after extra virgin or ordinary oil has been extracted from the olives.  It is then refined and mixed with a little extra virgin oil for flavor.  This is the cheapest olive oil on the market and we would not recommend it if you can possibly afford something better.

Top Ten Tops When Choosing Olive Oil

  1. Choose extra virgin olive oil, the top grade of olive oil, because it has more interesting flavours and contains more phenols and vitamins than other grades and so is much better for your health.
  2. If at all possible taste the oil before you buy.  Trust your judgement; bad oil tastes unpleasant.
  3. Buy from shops which have a high turnover of olive oil and avoid oil which is displayed in the shop window or under strong lights.  Light and heat are detrimental to olive oil.
  4. Fresh is best with olive oil so check the harvest date if there is one. Do not fall for cut price offers at the beginning of the year. The chances are it is the previous year’s oil.
  5. It is a mistake to think that you can tell anything about the oils by their colour so choose oil that is packed in dark coloured glass bottles or in tins.
  6. If you are particularly concerned about where your oil comes from, look for the letters DOP on the label.  This denotes oil which is guaranteed to come from the area stated.
  7. Once olive oil is opened and exposed to the air it will start to deteriorate more quickly so buy in quantities which you will use within a couple of month or so.
  8. Choose the best style of extra virgin olive oil for the culinary job.  Delicately flavoured ingredients will be swamped by very robust oils.  Conversely, strongly flavoured ingredients will need just these oils.
  9. Greek oils are a good choice for all round use. They tend to be very reasonably priced, medium in style and quite herbaceous in flavour.
  10. Keep a note of the oils that you particularly like with details of origin, variety and style.  In this way you will build up a body of knowledge on which to draw as you buy more oil.

Broaden Your Use of Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

  • Instead of toast, butter and marmalade for breakfast serve a Mediterranean breakfast of toast rubbed with tomato and drizzled with olive oil.
  • Instead of making granola with sugar toast your own breakfast granola by tossing jumbo oats and flaked millet, spelt or rice in olive oil with a splash of vanilla and bake for 10 minutes. Then stir in plenty of mixed seeds, nuts and raisins and bake again.
  • Instead of dry grilling or baking bell peppers poach in olive oil over a very low heat in a deep frying pan with a lid and serve with the cooking juices.
  • Instead of mashed potato serve refried beans made with mashed haricot, cannellini or borlotti beans fried in olive oil.
  • Instead of brushing filo pastry with melted butter to make crispy pies or parcels use olive oil.
  • Instead of discarding fruit which will not ripen, such as pears, peaches or apricots, bake in the oven brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with flaked or chopped nuts.
  • Instead of using corn oil in American recipes for Carrot Cake, Pistachio Nut Cake or Corn Muffins use olive oil.
  • Instead of the standard vinaigrette carry a small flask of extra virgin oil to use in restaurants.  You can also use it on take-away meals to boost the health benefits.
  • Instead of using margarine on toast, try a drizzle of olive oil with honey