When it comes to using oil at home I stick to using two types – sunflower and olive oil. For the most part it is very easy to choose between the two. Sunflower oil is a great all-rounder as it is essentially flavourless and can be used for frying and roasting. For something a bit different I turn to olive oil but which one is the best to use?
Many people use extra virgin olive oil simply because they think as it is the most expensive it is the best but often it isn't the most suitable. Extra virgin olive oil is so-called because it comes from the first cold pressing of the olives. With its low acidity rate and superior flavour it is probably best reserved for using in salad dressings or simply for dipping bread in. It's what I use when making potato salad. In fact heating extra virgin olive oil can seriously impair its flavour as it has a low smoking point.
For simple cooking such as grilling, frying and sautéing then a general pure olive oil is probably your best bet if you want to have just one type of olive oil in your cupboard. Although it is termed 'pure' it is actually a blend of extra virgin olive oil and light olive oil.
The last type of olive oil is light olive oil. It is the cheapest of the olive oils available but with its high smoking point it makes it suitable not just for grilling and frying with but also baking.
The flavour of olive oil can also depend on where the olives used in the oil have been grown. Olives thrive in hot temperatures which is why olive oil is associated with the Mediterranean countries of Italy, Spain and Greece. Olive oil can have a fruity taste or even be bitter. If you want you can flavour your own oil with herbs such as rosemary or tarragon. Alternatively give your olive oil a bit of a kick with some chillies.
So for your next olive oil purchase don't just think about the price or quality but what you will be needing to use it for. To help you make your choice have a look at the handy guide from Jamie'sItalian below.