They're three basic grades to Olive oil. Extra-Virgin, Virgin, and Olive Oil (Pure Olive Oil).
For cooking, the "best" olive oil to use is, "Olive Oil"(Pure Olive Oil). Because cooking causes all grades of Olive oil to lose it's flavour, it's more cost-effective to use the cheaper, lower quality one.
You can use Extra-virgin Olive oil for salads, or my favourite, with toasted crostini.
I'm not too sure about the differences, but I believe is in its flavour, or flavor, depending on where you're from.
Extra Virgin is the first pressing of the olives. Virgin is the next, and so forth.
There are certain things to look for when purchasing Olive Oil:
1. Cold pressed is the best, solvent extracted is the worst. Cold pressed means that the olives were pressed without heat. After all the pressings, the pulp is then extracted once again using solvents. I think sometimes this solvent extracted olive oil is termed "Light" Olive Oil, but not always.
2. Country of origin. Many commercially available "Italian" olive oils i.e. Bertolli, are really not from Italy, but Spain and other places. If you look closely at the bottom of the back label, you may find in very tiny print, the countries of origin from which that Olive Oil is comprised.
Not all brands will reveal the country (ies) of origin. The oil is tank delivered to Italy where it may be bottled.
Extra Virgin is generally very fruitful in smell and taste. Virgin a bit less so, etc.
Your reply made me curious so I did some research. This is what I found:
Virgin oil is the result of a single, simple pressing; in contrast, cold-pressed is a marketing label rather than a processing technique.
Extra virgin is the highest quality olive oil -- characterized by "perfect flavor and odor, max acidity (oleic acid) of 1g/100g - 1% with maximum peroxide value mequiv 02/kg of 20." In some regions, extra virgin oil is judged by a panel of experts for taste, mouth feel, and aroma. This oil tends to be most delicate in flavor, and is preferred for salads or served at the table with bread for dipping, or added to soups and stews.
Fine virgin oil is just slightly less perfect -- with "maximum acidity (oleic acid) of 2g/100g - 2% with maximum peroxide value mequiv 02/kg of 20."
The other officially designated grades of olive oil are the result of several chemical refining and blending processes:
Semi-fine or ordinary -- suitable for cooking when subtle flavor is not required.
Refined -- maximum acidity of .5g/100g, lacking the flavor of virgin oil.
Pure -- a low-cost blend of refined and virgin, such as you might find in large quantities at a discount food warehouse.
Pomace refers to the pounded olive residue. Refined olive-pomace oil and olive-pomace oil are lower-quality oils.
Pomace oil, olive cake, and lampante (or lamp grade olive oil) are not intended for human consumption, and are generally used for industrial or technical purposes, such as soap making.
On Jim Dixon's Real Good Food site, we learned that these chemical and flavor standards were first established by the International Olive Oil Council in 1990, and have since been applied to California olive oils as well as Southern European varieties.
Freshness is key. A cheap no name EVOO that's just been shipped from the bottling plant will be far superior to a chi chi one that's been sitting on the supermarket shelves for a few months. In my experience, the best EVOO producers will put the date of harvest on the bottle.
WOW isn't this scary?
I live in Italy..and only use extra virgin olive oil to cook with. Makes my food taste fabulous. There are oils and oils even in the extra virgin bracket.
Tasting is the only way to learn.
The oil I use is dark green unfiltered EVOO.
Color comes from how ripe the olive was when crushed, here where I live in Tuscany, most crush when the olives are green, just turning black.
When the olives are crushed black, it is easier for them to have already started the fermentation process and go rancid faster ( which is quite common in oils sold in America)
I did an olive oil tasting for a student last week, and she hated the oil because it didn't taste like what she haad had in America!!!
just had to say that if anybody can get PASQUINI thats the deal!
I eat it on everything...from prosciutto sandwhiches to lobster pasta to grilled steak. I have had what I thought was good EVOO, but one taste of Pasquini you will realize you have never had EVOO
Hmm...looks like you guys might say that Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the way to go, And I was watching Neil Perry on the Rockpool Sessions, and he also mentioned that Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the way to go.
I'm going to have to agree with diva, "Tasting is the only way to learn."
Fat is flavor... and really effects the final flavors in the dish.
Here My florentine husband says "if you use cream, you can't cook" as it covers.. and gives the fatty mouth feel.. and you taste cream!
In Italy, the REAL alfredo sauce is just butter and parmesan cheese.
French cooking uses a lot of cream, as it also coats your mouth and you don't get all that tannin from the wines..
In Tuscany, with hte traditional wines being low in Tannin, the oil, great salt and herbs are all you need..
LESS is MORE... but spending a little more on oil.. will give you great results.
A tiny drop will do ya!
Try just grilling a steak ( or chicken breast or fish) and serving it with salt and oil... no lemons please!