I am wondering what the difference in all the Extra virgin olive oils are. I am wondering how they decide what brand or style is more than another.
OLIVE OILS, what is the difference?
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Where you're in the USA, not a lot that is reliable. Extra virgin is not a protected label in the US to the extent that it is in Europe and other countries. In the US, it's mostly about acidity of the oil with some limits on no chemical extraction.
As to what is shipped to the US from other countries, that's pretty messy too. Lots of oil bottled in Italy is from olives from around the Mediterranean. The shipping and blending doesn't benefit these oils. It's just a labeling loophole they exploit because people link olive oil with italy in their minds.
You need to find a good vendor importing IOC product if you want the benefit of the tighter labeling of the European countries. And they'll likely have a good relationship with some good makers of olive oil from the US and other nations as well. They'll usually have tastings you can attend or have some bottles already opened from which you can sample the different oils they carry. Buy in small amounts until you find ones you like. Check your greek, turkish, italian and spanish delis/grocers too.
Country of origin and type of olives does impact taste. Italy doesn't have a climate that is really proper for ripening olives so their oil is harsher. But many people love it. I listened to an expat american on NPR who lives in Italy rave about the bitter oil on his baked potatoes instead of butter. I don't mind this sort of oil, but it's not what I consider a great olive oil, but he did.
Spain and Greece tend to be my preferred countries of origin for European olive oils. I like the flavors better. Some people talk about color, usually greenness or golden tones. I've had good oils in both colors so I don't consider that a reliable method.
I recently had some Cullen Creek Extra Virgin Olive Oil from California. It was fairly inexpensive and I really liked it. It was light, fruity, almost sweet. Not nearly as complex as other oils I like too, but for the price, I was pretty impressed.
We have a place called vomfass that sells only oils and some spirits. I have gotten a few select infused items from there at very small quanity (100ml) I wonder if that would be the place to start. I have always just used the oil that people have given me as a gift.
My next question with this is.... is it worth the extra money for the Higher end stuff?? I am just cooking at home for my family and not entertaining anyone special.
Scribble, here in Germany we have a lot of those VomFass-type shops and the oils and vinegars are nothing special.
Each region or country around the Mediterranean produces a different "flavour" of olive oil, depending on the type (or mix) of olives used, the ripening stage and so on. Olive oils from Liguria (Northern Italy) and Crete (Greece) are widely considered the best. At the end of the day, it's a matter of personal preference, of course.
I suggest you find a good olive oil for salad dressings and adding to pasta sauces after cooking (i.e. for flavour) for which you should expect to pay perhaps 25 bucks for the 500 ml bottle. For frying and sauteeing, however, just use any unprocessed extra-virgin olive oil. Beware the really cheap stuff: a lot of it is "cut" with sunflower or rapeseed oil and tends to be processed, i.e. not extra-virgin.
One thing to be said about olive oil is that, like all oils, it oxidizes when exposed to air/heat/light. Here in Slovakia, whatever olive oil you buy in the supermarket, it's oxidized (smells of crayons and tastes unbelievably horrible - like gasoline or what), I don't know about the situation in the US though. But sometimes it's enough to have it delivered with a few days' worth delay (and Slovak Postal Service is well known for this) at the peak of summer when temperatures rise to 35°C (I imagine about 50°C in the delivery van) and even a very good oil can go off (happened to me).
Here, you might find lots of information and recommendations at this web page:
Came across this guide today. Has three links on tasting oils.
First link is discussion of technique and a bit about what to look for.
Second link is terms and descriptions of terms used to describe flavors of olive oil. Both good and bad.
Third is a sheet you can print to help you mark out your experience tasting oils.
I learned some things.
There are many different kinds of oils not just brands but flavours.
When I first started cooking I studied the basic oils, vegetable, groundnut, sunflower and olive.
Olive oil is a healthier oil than most others. Although olive oil is not very heat tolerant it is a healthier choice and can be used to cook pretty much anything.
Extra Virgin olive oil is a little different. It is more tolerant of heat and is a lot healthier. Extra virgin is a lot purer than olive oil. The best Extra Virgin olive oil is picked washed and pressed and not diluted by other substances. I use extra virgin olive oil for many dishes I cook. It is also a great dressing for salads.
There are many different flavours of olive oil and extra virgin but the flavour is all about your preference of food.
If you're near Madison or Milwaukee there's bound to be a Middle Eastern market of some kind in the area. They almost always have large selections of reasonably priced and tasty olive oils and most proprietors would also be thrilled to help you pick one out. I've had very flavorful, well-priced, extra-virgin oils from Morocco, Turkey, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories in addition to to the usual suspects from Greece, Spain and Italy.
I beg to differ. EVOO's smoke point is something above 200°C (lesser virgin oils are a bit under 200°C). It's not good for high-heat stir-frying, I'll give you that, but why would anyone use it for that anyway? It's actually perfectly safe for Mediterranean dishes, which typically use medium to medium-high for frying. It's a myth that it should only be used for cold cuisine.
Here is a chart of smoke points of various fats and oils. Extra virgin olive oil has a lower smoke point than "pure" or "pomace" and a lower smoke point than several other cooking oils. Ranked next to butter or some other oils, though, it takes a fair amount of heat. I, too, use extra-virgin to cook with because it's what I always have on hand but I keep the heat on the low side and use other oils for higher temperature cooking.