No two olive oils are alike. Today, there are three general varieties of olive oil available: extra virgin olive oil, olive oil and extra light olive oil. The following descriptions provide a guide to understanding the fragrance, color and flavor profiles of the different varieties of olive oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Made from full-flavored ripe olives that are pressed immediately after harvest, extra virgin olive oil boasts a robust, fruity flavor. It has the most full-bodied taste and aroma of the olive oil varieties. Extra virgin olive oil is a superb choice for salads and vegetable dishes, for basting meats and seafood, and for seasoning soups, marinades and sauces. Also use it alone as a dip for breads. Reach for extra virgin olive oil when you desire a full rich flavor in your foods.
Olive oil, sometimes described as “pure,” is an excellent all-purpose cooking oil that is more golden in color compared with extra virgin olive oil. It has a mild flavor with just a hint of fruitiness. It can be used for everything, from sautéing and stir-frying, to basting grilled or oven-roasted meats, poultry and seafood. Olive oil also works well as a flavor enhancer for sauces, marinades and dressings.
Extra Light Olive Oil
Extra light olive oil, with its light golden color, is the mildest flavored of the olive oils and has just a hint of olive flavor. It’s an excellent choice for all types of cooking, especially baking. It can be used in place of plain vegetable oil in most recipes. Extra light olive oil also is the best choice for high heat cooking methods, because it remains extremely stable and won’t burn. Extra light olive oil has the same amount of calories and the same nutrient content as other olive oils.