Olive Oil is the "Grand Dame" of Cooking Oils and can be Processed a number of ways for various Uses.
Olive Oil
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Olive Oil is the "Grand Dame," of the Kitchen. It is pressed from olives and it comes in many varieties with different uses.  

Smart Kitchen covers Olive Oil more thoroughly in Lesson 6: Garde Manger, Topic 2: Oils, Exercise 2: Olive Oil. On this Resource page we only talk about Olive Oil generally and refer you to our individual Resource Pages on each variety of Olive Oil (listed below) to learn more about the specific types.

Season

See Smart Kitchen's Resource on Olives to learn about the seasonality.

Cultivation

See Smart Kitchen's Resource on Olives to learn about the cultivation.

Production

See Smart Kitchen's Resource on Olives to learn about the production of Olive Oil.

Varieties

Unrefined Olive Oil is useful with Medium/Low Heat and has a Smoke Point of 320°F (160°C), a Melt Point of 32°F (0°C), a Flash Point of 600°F (315°C) and a Fire Point of 700°F (371°C). Unrefined Olive Oil is used for cooking, salad oils, very gentle sautéing, low-heat baking, and pressure cooking. 

Virgin Olive Oil is useful with Medium/High Heat and has a Smoke Point of 419°F (215°C), a Melt Point of 32°F (0°C), a Flash Point of 600°F (315°C) and a Fire Point of 700°F (371°C). Virgin Olive Oil is used for cooking, salad oils, and margarine. 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is useful with Medium Heat and has a Smoke Point of 374°F (190°C), a Melt Point of 32°F (0°C), a Flash Point of 600°F (315°C) and a Fire Point of 700°F (371°C). Extra Virgin Olive Oil is used for cooking, salad oils, margarine, baking, sautéing, and stir-frying. 

Refined Olive Oil is useful for Medium/High Heat and has a Smoke Point of 437°F (225°C), a Melt Point of 32°F (0°C), a Flash Point of 600°F (315°C) and a Fire Point of 700°F (371°C). Refined Olive Oil is used for cooking, sautéing, stir frying, salad oils and margarine. 

Pomace Oil is useful for High Heat and has a Smoke Point of 460°F (238°C), a Melt Point of 32°F (0°C), a Flash Point of 600°F (315°C) and a Fire Point of 700°F (371°C). Pomace Oil is used for cooking, sautéing, stir frying, salad oils and margarine.

Extra Light Olive Oil is useful for High Heat and has a Smoke Point of 468°F (242°C), a Flash Point of 600°F (315°C) and a Fire Point of 700°F (371°C). Extra Light Olive Oil is used for sautésstir-frys, cooking, salad oils and margarines

Purchasing

Remember that Olives are Fruits. The Olive Oil is akin to their juice. With juice and Olive Oils, fresher and less adulterated is better.

When purchasing Olive Oil, check these items first.

1. Best by Date. Look at the bottles "Best Buy Date." Most Olive Oils should have a shelf life of at least two years. How far away is the expiration of that period on the bottle you are considering? Better products may even have a "Date of Harvest." Do the math and find the freshest bottle. 

2. Country of Origin.  Does the bottle have a tag naming the Olive Mill and country where the product was grown? Proud manufacturers trumpet their credentials. Less proud manufacturers play games. By the way, "Packed in Italy" or "Bottled in Italy" may not mean that the olives were grown in Italy, or that they were pressed in Italy. It only means that the bottles were filled there.   

3. Acidity. Olive Oil can have up to 3% acidity. Look at the nutrition label and seek out brands with the lowest amount of acid. 

4. Dark Bottle. Most Olive Oils that we have seen come in a clear glass bottle to show off the lighter color of the oil. Darker glass would be better because these light oils are still subject to being broken down by the sun or light in general. Dark glass helps prevent the problem. 

5. Color. There is no one specific, light color. Light or Extra Light can mean straw-colored or golden or light green. The differences occur naturally because olives (and Olive Oil) come in various shades.

Storage

Oxygen, heat, light and time cause Olive Oil to Oxidize and become Rancid.

Oils should be tightly capped and kept in a cool dark place. Olive Oils, which are a Monounsaturated Oil, are less susceptible to going rancid than Polyunsaturated Oils due to temperature. Light is still a risk though, so dark colored bottles are helpful in protecting the Extra Light Olive Oil from light which will cause them to break down.  

If you do refrigerate your Olive Oil it may become semi-solid in the cold. Just let it sit for 15-20 minutes at room temperature and it will return to liquid form. Olive Oil should keep 6 months to a year in the refrigerator.

If over time, your oil gets “sticky” or has off flavors dispose of it. It has gone bad. 

Culinary Uses

The less processed the Olive Oil the more varietal the flavor of the Oil. Unrefined Olive Oils are sometimes almost thought of (and priced like) fine wines. You should use them as a fine ingredient which will impart "Olivey" flavor to your dish.

The less refined versions of Olive Oil have a lower Smoke Point and are at best useful up to and including Medium Heat. If you plan to use a Virgin Olive Oil for Pan Frying for example, you will have to Manage Your Cooking Process, which is the 3rd of "Smart Kitchen's 4 Levers of Cooking"™ very actively to avoid overheating the Olive Oil.

The more refined the Olive Oil the more generic the flavor will be and the more broadly the oil can be used.  Some refined Olive Oils can have very high Smoke Points and even be used for Sauteing or Pan Frying.

Because of its ability to impart olivey flavor, Olive Oil, the more sublime the better, is a great choice for Salad Dressings. It is a poorer choice for most baked goods for the same reason, because it can impart a heavier olivey flavor to lighter, sweeter products.

Nutritional Value

See the individual varieties of Olive Oil to learn about the nutritional value of each one. The different varieties of Olive Oil are listed above.

Nutritional Value USDA
OIL,OLIVE,SALAD OR COOKING
Amount Per 100g
Calories 884
%Daily Value*
 
153%
Total Fat 100g
10%
Saturated Fat 13g
Polyunsaturated Fat 10g
Monounsaturated Fat 72g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 2mg
0%
Potassium 1mg
0%
Total Carbohydrate 0g
0%
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

All Olive Oils have essentially the same fat breakdown because they all come from Olives.

Olive Oil is a Monounsaturated oil. It is 14% Saturated Fat, 73% Monounsaturated Fat, and 11% Polyunsaturated Fat.

If you are comparing Oils, switching to Olive Oil can help with cholesterol but it won't have as many Antioxidants because its Polyunsaturated Fat is so low. 

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

No

Low Calorie

No