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Nov 10, 2009 02:39 PM

Cooking with regular olive oil (not extra-virgin)

I'm confused about the role of regular (not extra-virgin) olive oil in the kitchen.

I've always understood that extra-virgin is a delicate oil, the fine wine of fat, intended for lightly-cooked sauces, drizzling, and dipping. Cook's Illustrated has a few articles mentioning this, and advocating regular olive oil for sauteing, pan-frying, etc. They even said the regular stuff has a slightly higher smoke point.

And yet, every CI recipe I've seen calls explicitly for extra-virgin.

Same with Bittman - his "about oils" chapter in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian says that fine extra-virgin has delicate flavors that are wasted when cooked, but all his cooked recipes call for it anyway.

And to add to the confusion, at least in my local store, extra-virgin and regular oils are exactly the same price.

So what's the role of regular olive oil? Does it have one?

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  1. Well, I don't have current favorite recipes from either CI nor Mark Bittman but all I know is that I cook with regular good quality olive oil (right now, it's Filippo Berio) and I use the extra-virgin greenish colored olive oil (right now, it's Colavita) for salad dressings, finishing/drizzling, etc., more for raw usages. To me, cooking with evoo ruins the fruity, delicate flavor.

    1. It may depend on how intense the cooking is. I use EV olive oil for quick sautes where the heat is medium-high and the cooking time very short (as in sauteing diced or julienned vegies), but even then I use the cheap Costco stuff (pretty good, actually), not the good Spanish oil I prefer for dishes where I want the taste of the oil to come through. Otherwise I use canola or peanut oil. I just don't see the point of olive oil that doesn't taste much like olives.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Zeldog

        Olive oil is a mono-unsaturated fat and that's basically why I like using it--but almost never at high heat. If I'm doing a quick sear, it's usually canola or peanut or vegetable oil, as you said.