Extra virgin olive oil. Light olive oil. Spanish, Italian, Greek or California olive oil. There are a lot of options in the olive oil genre. Then there is canola oil, vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, and the old favorite, butter.
A friend’s post on Facebook asking about olive oils inspired this week’s Tuesday’s Tip. Basically wanting to know when to use olive oil vs. vegetable oil, and wondering what type of olive oil is best, I told C I would share some thoughts on oil for this week’s tip.
Generally, you use oils for two separate purposes: either for cooking, or as an ingredient in a recipe.
Let’s look at cooking first:
*For simple sautéing, searing or stir-frying, either vegetable or olive oil works best. Generally you are not using very high heats as you would in deep frying, and therefore either of these oils will hold up well. However, olive oil has a lower “smoke point,” meaning that the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke, so if the recipe calls for high heat, you may want to use a vegetable oil.
*For frying, vegetable oil or even peanut or grapeseed oil (which happens to have the highest smoke point) works best. Olive oil cannot be used at the high heats necessitated by deep frying.
*Within the olive oil world, extra virgin olive oil is seen as the highest quality oil. The result of the first press of the olives, extra virgin is also quite tasty as a condiment, but more on that later.
*Sometimes a recipe will for half butter, half oil. This gives you the flavor of the butter, with a higher smoke point of oil (just plain butter smokes much faster than an oil/butter combination.
When using oil as an ingredient:
*Simply put, the flavor of olive oil is very hard to replicate with other types of oil. There are actually stores that offer olive oil tastings, much like wine tastings. Years ago when I first learned of this I scoffed at the idea of tasting oils, but a winter trip to Tuscany with SPH changed my attitude. There was an oil tasting organization and you truly could taste the difference between different types of olive oils. Olive oils have a floral, almost fruity aroma and taste, something that most vegetable oils lack.
*Olive oil is excellent in dressings, sauces, marinades, and as a condiment on top of soups, salads and other dishes.
*Vegetable oils offer a good neutral base for flavorful marinades that might not benefit from the extra olive oil influence. Vegetable oils are also preferred in making things like pancakes, quick breads or other things that don’t need the olive taste.
*Do not replace all the butter in a recipe, especially in a baked good, with oil. Butter holds up differently in baking, and since it is solid at room temperature rather than oil which is liquid, the resulting baked good will be substantially different (read: not good) if you use vegetable oil.
There are olive oil expert’s that know boatloads more that I on this topic, but I hope these tips serve as a good launching point for your olive oil adventure.