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Question:   What is the difference between all the different types of olive oil you can buy? Does it matter if you use extra-virgin or not? How are they used? 

Answer:  I get this question more often than you think. There are SO many different ones now, and yes, it does affect the taste of your dish according to which type of olive oil you select.

First of all, olive oil is the oil that is pressed from ripe olives after harvest. The first pressing is called “virgin” olive oil. “Extra virgin” just means this olive oil is from the first pressing – and has less than 1 percent acidity. Extra virgin olive oil is probably considered the finest choice, along with exceptional fruity flavor. A lot of the middle-of-the-road olive oils are a blend of both “virgin” and “extra-virgin.”

Any olive oil that comes after the first pressing can be classified as “light” or “pure.” This doesn’t mean it has fewer calories, it really means you will most likely have a lighter color and less flavor. A lot of people use this one when they want just a hint of flavor but not be overwhelmed. But for recipes that showcase the oil (such as a salad dressing or dipping sauce for bread), stick with the finest you can afford.

One last thing. Olive oils have a low smoking point, which means they are best used for sautés or in sauces, but not suitable for high-temperature frying.

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