Generic term for oil pressed from olives. High in oleic acid and touted as being heart healthy, olive oil is a base cooking and flavoring oil in many cultures, especially around the Mediterranean and Middle East. Olive oil has a stronger flavor and lower smoking point than many other vegetable oils, which is why some people prefer not to cook with it. There are many different grades, colors, and flavor profiles of olive oil, depending on the extraction process and olives used. Liquid at room temperature, olive oil has a relatively high freezing point of 39 degrees fahrenheit, but some can solidify at higher temperatures depending on variety and suspended olive solids. High quality extra virgin olive oil has a smoking point around 405 degrees F (207 degrees C).
Olive oil is available in a variety of grades, which reflect the degree to which it has been processed.
Selecting and Buying
If possible, choose olive oils that give you a harvest date, or expiry date since olive oils go rancid within 2 years.
Olive oil is produced by grinding olives and extracting the oil by mechanical or chemical means. Green olives usually produce more bitter oil, and overripe olives can produce oil that is rancid, so for good extra virgin olive oil care is taken to make sure the olives are perfectly ripened.
Preparation and Use
It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps. Olive oil is used throughout the world, but especially in the Mediterranean.
Olive oil is the main cooking oil in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.
Extra virgin olive oil is mostly used as a salad dressing and as an ingredient in salad dressings. It is also used with foods to be eaten cold. If uncompromised by heat, the flavor is stronger. It also can be used for sautéing.
Conserving and Storing
Even though olive oil's monounsaturated fats are more stable and heat-resistant than the polyunsaturated fats that predominate in other oils (especially the easily damaged omega-3 fatty acids found in flax seed oil, which should always be refrigerated and never heated), olive oil should be stored properly and used within a few months to ensure its healthy phytonutrients remain intact and available.