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Feb 24, 2012 09:36 AM

Why don't people just use good olive oil?

I was wondering, why do people buy a good olive oil as a finishing oil and a lesser olive oil for cooking? Take for instance, that one regularly buys a liter of good olive oil and a liter of "cooking" olive oil. I admittedly haven't done the numbers, but I'd say it's reasonable to assume that one can buy two liters of good olive oil, not including the insanely expensive stuff, for around the same price as a liter of good and a liter of regular olive oil. That said, why not mix about a quarter liter of a 2 liter bottle of good olive with three quarter liters of neutral oil and use that for cooking and have a lot more good olive oil? If the argument is that cooking kills too much of the olive oil favor, then I guess the question then becomes why cook with olive oil at all as suppose to just finishing an item with the stuff. Either way, I'm interested in your thoughts.

For the sake of discussion, lets assume that everyone has the funds to regularly buy both a liter or more of olive oil for cooking and a liter or more of better quality of olive oil for non-heat related uses. I'm interested in reasons relating to taste and taste per dollar here.

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  1. Personally I don't use anything but the Best EVOO but none of that is for cooking.

    There are so many other cheaper more versatile oils around that there's no need to monkey around like you're proposing.

    1. I'd be hornswaggled before I'd go to all that trouble. I use very good EVOO for salads, drizzles (finishing). I have a lesser olive oil if a recipe specifically calls for it, but as a rule I saute in Vegetable oil or peanut oil.

      1. I never cook with olive oil -- good or bad.

        1. I don't personally use much in the way of refined (cheaper) olive oil, but I think people use it for a variety of reasons: flavor (mild though it is), and health being chief among them.

          Generally speaking, you don't really raise the smoking point of an oil by mixing it with another oil with a higher smoke point. So mixing, say, canola with a little bit of EVOO is not ideal for a lot of cooking applications.

          Personally, I use EVOO for low temp cooking and no-heat applications, and other oils for cooking at higher temperatures. Cooking doesn't necessarily cause EVOO to lose its flavor, but cooking it at higher temperatures does.

          6 Replies
              1. re: cowboyardee

                If it's not too much to ask, what do you mean by low-temp cooking? For instance, could one sous vide fish with olive oil and not lose flavor or is there a time limit for lack of a better word?

                1. re: shezmu

                  I cook sous vide a lot - at SV temps (up to about 185 f), EVOO retains all of its character. It's nice - you can get a really great flavor to meat and fish and vegetables very simply 'poached' in a little bit of EVOO.

                  Time does not seem to be a factor, though I don't remember ever cooking something with EVOO for 20+ hours. I know that it does retain its character in a sous vide bath for at least 6 hours (I've done calamari and octopus and chicken confit with EVOO for at least that long).

                  But even an especially gentle saute seems not to cause EVOO to lose its character the same way that higher temp cooking does. You can gently sweat onions in it on the stovetop and still retain some of that EV taste.

                  1. Buying inexpensive olive oil is not always what it seems. Most are mixed with coloring and vegtable oils. See the post is your extra virgin olive oil extra virgin.