The Difference Between Regular Olive Oil and Extra Virgin, and Why it Matters

The Difference Between Regular Olive Oil and Extra Virgin, and Why it Matters

As anyone who regularly braves the aisles of a supermarket will know, there are a lot of different types of olive oil out there. There are a whole lot of different types of cooking oil, period.

It’s a confusing business, and if you’re anything like me, you probably decide what you’re cooking with based on price and familiarity with the brand in front of you. The thing is, though, that not all oils were created equal – and that goes for the food product on a broader scale, and for olive oil in particular, too.

To get a better understanding of the world of oils, I did some digging.

What’s the difference between extra virgin, virgin, light and regular olive oil?

According to The Kitchn (and generally everyone), extra virgin (or EVOO) is the top-quality option. It tends to have a pronounced olive flavour, and it is darker than most other varieties. It is perfectly fine to cook with but tends to have a lower smoke point which means it can burn more easily. For that reason, many people reserve it for dressing salads or dipping bread.

Alternatively, you may want to use this when sautéing at low to medium heats.

Virgin olive oil would be the next step down and is similar to EVOO but has a less intense flavour.

Light olive oil is the only option of the three that is a refined oil. The Kitchn shares that it has a neutral taste and higher smoke point, which makes it easier to cook with. This is what you would use for frying and other high-heat cooking activities, like roasting.

Olive oil/Pure olive oil is considered by some to be ‘regular’ olive oil, and it is usually a blend of virgin and refined olive oil. Per The Kitchn, this variety of oil is of lower quality, has a fairly neutral taste and is generally used for everyday cooking.

How about other varieties?

MasterClass, you know, that online platform that offers a list of training programs in literally every area you could think of, has shared a guide to oil more broadly, along with some pointers on what you should be using different types for.

Keep away from heat: Unrefined options like flaxseed oil, wheat germ oil, and walnut oil are best served fresh. Use these options on salads.

Low to medium heat: If you’re cooking at mild temperatures, you can try coconut, grapeseed, and extra-virgin olive oil.

Heat it up, baby: According to MasterClass, the best oils for high heat include avocado, peanut, canola, sunflower, and sesame oil.

The other thing to consider here is whether you want an oil with a neutral taste (like peanut or canola) or not when cooking.

Got an oil tip for us? Pop it in the comments below. And if you’d like to keep learning, here’s a guide to all the different types of onions you can cook with, too.

This article has been updated since its original publish date.

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