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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.

                    1. I don't think anyone intentionally buys "bad" olive oil. But I do buy pricier olive oil for salads or finishing and less expensive olive oil for sauteeing, frying certain vegetables (potatoes!), and dishes where I want that flavor. Using only the expensive stuff would be out of my price range for family and group cooking.

                      I also use vegetable, peanut, and grapeseed oil in certain dishes so it is not as though I am wed to the olive.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tcamp

                        Agreed. Some of the store brands that didn't do well on the quality testings still have some olive flavor which is better than flavorless oils depending on the application

                      2. I think since most of us here tend to focus on taste, we lose sight of the fact that many (most?) people who cook with olive oil do so for the health benefits, in which case I think a "basic" olive oil for lower-temp cooking and a "better" oil for finishing make perfect sense.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: guilty

                          I haven't done that much research, but aren't grapeseed oil, rice bran oil, and the like healthier than non-virgin olive oil? Like how bad is pomace oil health-wise?

                          1. re: shezmu

                            It depends how you define "healthy," of course. And I'm not trying to argue that olive is the "healthiest" oil.

                            I wouldn't advocate anyone ever use pomace oil, and grapeseed oil is almost always hexane-extracted, which isn't very good for the eater, the people extracting the oil, or anyone living in the general vicinity.

                          2. re: guilty

                            I too cook with olive oil for the supposed health benefits.

                            Vegetable oil is a “polyunsaturated” oil and polyunsaturated oils may have negative health effects. Olive oil, by contrast, is rich in monounsaturated fats – which are supposed to lower cholesterol – and in antioxidants.

                            As to shezmu’s original question, as I understand it, more expensive olive oils and extra virgin olive oils are more expensive because of their superior taste. That taste, however, purportedly does not survive the heat of normal cooking, so there’s no point in cooking with an expensive olive oil or extra virgin olive oil.

                            1. re: KS1

                              We just find it so convenient to have one olive oil, extra virgin for us, and by using just one we use it up more quickly and don't have to worry about keeping it "fresh" since we use a bottle every week or two.

                          3. I use good virgin olive oil for cooking. I use good * Extra-Virgin* for cold dishes and finishing. I almost never fry food, but have vegetable oil on hand for that. My husband is from Turkey and olive oil (and the flavor) is very important in cooking for him. He tastes the difference between cooking with vegetable oil and cooking with olive oil... me, less so. The flavor is pronounced with the cold Turkish dishes I make, so would not dare use sub-par olive oil, virgin olive oil, or poor extra virgin. I admit that 15 years ago, before I met him, I knew very little about olive oil. He is the driving force behind what we buy, as he "knows" his stuff. I would never mix oils, though. For us, it's worth the money to get the good stuff.

                            1. Had a "wannabe" GF years ago who dropped like $50 on a bottle of white truffle oil and then proceeded to use it to fry eggs and bacon for breakfast. Couldn't taste any of the truffle. Warned her but it didn't matter. Like I said, a wannabe.

                              1. One thing I'd like to point out.. olive oils can be very, very different based on the type of olive and place of origin, regardless of price. Some are a golden color, some are deep green or even brownish. The flavors can be anywhere from mild to extremely bitter. I am not sure how mixing them would turn out in terms of flavor? Just a thought... I have no idea, but its' something to think about.

                                1. When you say 'people...' Folks I know who really aren't into food or cooking buy the non-EV OO, and I've seen it recommended in some magazines (e.g. 'Womens' mags, not food mags) as a less expensive alternative. It doesn't make much sense, for the reasons already posted here, but it's touted as a frugal way to get the health benefits of EVOO without spending the money.

                                  1. We use Trader Joe's EVOO for everything--cooking, sauteeing, pasta, salad, bread--except peanut oil for deep frying and butter when appropriate. My husband doesn't like the "special" flavor of finishing oils.

                                    1. I have some rather precious olive oil I brought back from Spain. I can really appreciate it drizzled over red peppers or tomatoes, but I won't detect how special it is by sauteeing with it. Too much begins to happen to it.

                                      1. If olive oil isn't "good" I use canola oil instead. If I want "good" oil, I have Saloio brand oil (portuguese, cheap, really good taste). I just don't cook much with it (besides shrimp).