Olive Oil Introduction


Olive Growing | Harvesting | Pressing | Basic Olive Oil Grades

Olive oil has been one of the staples of the Mediterranean diet for thousands of years and its popularity is growing rapidly in other parts of the world. It is one of the most versatile oils for cooking and it enhances the taste of many foods. It is an excellent alternative to butter or margarine as a condiment or for use in food preparation.

Olive oil is the only type of vegetable/fruit oil that can be obtained from just pressing. Most other types of popular oils (corn, canola, etc.) must be processed in other ways to obtain the oil. (Oil from some seeds and nuts, such as sesame and peanut, can be obtained through pressing.) Another important bonus is that olive oil has proven health benefits.

Olive Growing

Most countries that line the Mediterranean Sea produce olive oil in varying quantities. Spain, Italy, and Greece represent more than three-fourths of the total olive oil output in the world.

* The largest producer, Spain, supplies about one-third of the olive oil in the world. The olive oil produced in Spain is exported to nearly 100 countries.
* Italy is the second largest producer, with one-fourth of the world's total production. Italy exports a large quantity of olive oil to countries that enjoy the distinctive flavors of Italian oil, but Italians consume so much olive oil that they must also import a large quantity. The average consumption in Italy is about 10 quarts of olive oil per person per year.
* Greece is the third largest producer, representing about one-fifth of the world's total production. With a consumption of about 20 quarts per person per year, the Greeks are the largest consumers of olive oil per person in the world.
* Other major olive oil producers in the Mediterranean region are Turkey, Tunisia, Portugal, Morocco, and France with smaller amounts produced in the remaining Mediterranean countries.

There are several other countries outside the Mediterranean that are suitable for olive growing and olive oil production. These include South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States (nearly all of the production is based in California, because of its Mediterranean climate).

Olive trees thrive in climates with mild winters and hot summers. They cannot tolerate a temperature of less than 10ºF, and a lengthy spell of freezing weather can ruin any chances for a decent crop. Olive trees are very hardy in hot summer temperatures and they are drought tolerant. The trees grow best in shallow soil.

As ripening occurs, most olives change from green to purple to dark red to black. About 10 pounds of olives are required to produce 1 quart of olive oil. Most olive trees can provide enough olives to produce about 3 quarts of oil and some trees may provide 3 times that quantity.

Harvesting

Olives must be harvested at the correct time in order to obtain the greatest quantity of oil without an increase in the acidity level. The experienced olive grower knows the exact time when the olives should be harvested. Olives that are picked too soon may contain no oil. Olives contain oil soon after they have turned a light green color and the volume of oil increases as they become darker green and then change to purple or black. If the olives are allowed to ripen too long, the volume of oil will continue to increase as will the acidity level, which has a negative impact on the quality.

In the Northern Hemisphere, olives are generally harvested from late October through February. Harvesting usually occurs in November for most of the olive crop in Spain. October is the beginning of harvest time in the Tuscany region of Italy when the olives are still solid and green. In Greece, some olive varieties may be picked in October when they are still green, while other varieties may be left until February when they are at the peak of ripeness and bursting with oil.

Harvesting the olives has always been a labor intensive and time consuming process. Hand picking is still the best method for harvesting an entire crop because it causes the least amount of bruising to the fruit, (fruit that is bruised will have a negative impact on the resulting oil) but it is not very practical for large operations. Some individual growers, known as single estate producers, still harvest olives by hand picking to achieve the highest possible quality in the finished oil. Harvesting methods and the time of the harvest vary greatly depending on the country or region where the olives are grown, the type of olives that are grown, and the climatic conditions. Some of the various harvesting methods include:

* Hand picking.
* Beating the trees with large poles to loosen the olives.
* Using large wooden or plastic devices to "comb" through the foliage and loosen the olives.
* Collecting olives as they fall to the ground naturally.
* Machine harvesting, using a tractor that has vibrating claws that shake the tree and branches. The olives drop into nets, which helps to minimize bruising. The branch shaking equipment cannot harvest all of the olives from the tree, so the remaining olives must be picked by hand.

Pressing

Olives are usually pressed within 24 hours if the weather is hot. If the weather is cooler, the pressing may occur within 72 hours of harvesting. In many olive growing countries, the olives must be pressed within 72 hours to qualify as virgin oil. The longer the time between harvesting and pressing, the greater the chance that the olives will begin to ferment and the greater the chance that the resulting olive oil will not be the top quality possible.

In addition to the time lapse between harvesting and pressing, olive oil must be obtained using mechanical processes only to be considered virgin or extra virgin. If heat and/or chemical processes are used to produce the olive oil, it cannot be called virgin or extra virgin.

A process, known as the "first cold pressing," yields olive oil with the best flavor and in most cases the highest quality possible. After harvesting, any remaining leaves are removed, the olives are washed, and are ground into a pulp using a revolving mill, usually constructed with stainless steel. Granite millstones were traditionally used before modern equipment became widely available. The entire olive, including the pit, is pressed to produce the oil.

Some single estate producers, collect the oil that results from just the initial crushing while many other producers use an additional step to extract more oil. The olive pulp is placed on mats constructed with hemp or polypropylene that are stacked and then pressed to squeeze the pulp. Oil and water filter through the mats to a collection tank below. The water and oil are then separated in a centrifuge.

Regardless of the method used for the first pressing, the temperature of the oil during production is extremely important in order to maintain the distinct characteristics of the oil. If the temperature of the oil climbs above 86ºF, it will be damaged and cannot be considered cold-pressed.

If the natural acidity of cold-pressed oil is less than 1% oleic acid, it is known as extra virgin olive oil. If the acidity is between 1% and 3.3%, the oil is called virgin olive oil. Any oil obtained from the first cold pressing that has a natural acidity above 3.3% cannot be sold as virgin olive oil. It is usually sent to a refinery to reduce the acidity and eliminate any other objectionable characteristics.

Up to 90% of the oil is obtained from the olives during the first cold pressing. The remaining 10% is extracted in refineries that use heat and/or chemical processes to remove the oil.

Basic Olive Oil Grades

Three basic grades of olive oil are most often available to the consumer:

* Extra Virgin
* Virgin
* Olive Oil

In addition to the basic grades, olive oil differs from one country or region to another because of the types of olives that are grown, the environmental factors of the area, the harvesting methods, the time of the harvest, and the pressing techniques. These factors all contribute to the individual characteristics of the olive oil. Some of the characteristics found in olive oils produced in some of the major olive growing areas are:

* Spain: golden-yellow, fruity, aromatic, almondy
* Italy: deep green, peppery, herbal, grassy
* Greece: green, strong, aromatic
* France: pale, sweet, mild, light
* Portugal: golden, strong, fully ripe
* California: mild, light, fruity


Olive Oil Shopping Guide

Marketing Methods | Quality Factors | Purchasing Tips | Read the Label

Olive oil, which has been a staple in the Mediterranean diet for centuries, is becoming much more popular in the United States due to the versatility of the oil and also because of the many nutritional and health benefits it provides. This has resulted in the availability of a wider range of olive oils in most areas of the country.

Marketing Methods

There are three basic methods in which olive oil is marketed to the consumer:

1. Bulk Oil: Many of the name brands sold in food stores in the United States (and in many other parts of the world) are a blend of bulk olive oils from one country or several countries, which allows the manufacturer to sell the product at a reasonable price. For example, a leading brand of virgin olive oil may contain a blend of virgin oils from Spain, Greece, and Turkey or a bottle of extra virgin oil may contain a blend of extra virgin olive oils from throughout one country, such as Italy. The label will usually designate the origin of the oil blend. The blending of different batches of olive oil of the same grade does not indicate that the product is inferior. Many blended olive oils are among the most popular.
2. Regional Oils: Olive oil obtained from olives grown in a particular region of a country are known as regional oils. They usually have distinct, identifiable flavors and aromas and may be more expensive than bulk olive oils.
3. Estate Oils (also known as Single Estate Oils): Refers to oils that are obtained from olives grown on an individual farm. The olives are usually harvested by hand and the oil is pressed and bottled on site. Estate oils are among the best that are available and they are expensively priced. They are usually sold on site or in specialty shops and are stored and displayed away from excessive heat and bright light, which cause deterioration in the flavor and quality of the olive oil. (In some food stores, displays of olive oil may be exposed to heat and light, but because of the quick turnover in most food stores, this may not result in a significant problem with the quality.)

Quality Factors

Choosing a top quality olive oil is much like choosing wine: it is a decision usually determined by personal taste. Like wine, there are several factors that determine the quality and flavor of olive oil, such as:

* Type of olives used
* Ripeness of the olives
* Location where the olives are grown
* Environmental factors
* Harvesting methods
* Time of the harvest
* Pressing techniques
* Packaging and storage methods

Purchasing Tips

When purchasing a high quality, extra virgin olive oil, consider the following:

* The quality and flavor will differ greatly between different brands. Some shops specializing in olive oil may offer samples to help you decide on a specific oil. Prices for a half liter of high quality extra virgin olive oil may range from $7 to $32, which is comparable to a bottle of wine. In order to be a bit more affordable, expensive olive oils can be purchased in smaller sizes and then used occasionally for salads or as a condiment.
* When shopping for olive oil, keep in mind that the color of the oil depends on the type of olive and the degree of ripeness of the olive when it is harvested. An olive oil with a lighter green color may indicate that the olives were younger and were probably green or yellowish-green when picked. Some olive varieties produce a darker green oil when they are fully ripe. An olive oil with a yellow color may indicate that the olives where riper and had turned from green to blue, purple, or black.
* When purchasing a single estate oil, the age of the olive oil is important. Look for the harvest date on the label and ask questions before buying. Olive oil does not improve with age, so any oil that is older than 1½ years should not be purchased.
* The method of storing and displaying olive oil is important in order to avoid excessive heat and bright light, which causes olive oil to deteriorate. Olive oil that has been bottled in reactive metal containers such as copper or in plastic bottles, should not be purchased.
* Other popular sources for purchasing high quality olive oils are mail order catalogs and the Internet. Many individual olive oil producers issue catalogs and/or have Web sites that allow consumers worldwide to purchase various products.

Note: When shopping for olive oil for every day cooking use, consider purchasing a lower grade, reasonably priced oil. Heating causes olive oil to lose some flavor, so purchasing an expensive, flavorful, extra virgin olive oil may be unnecessary if it is intended solely for cooking.

Read the Label

The labeling requirements for olive oils from different areas of the world can be very confusing because there is no international standard for the labeling of olive oil. Extra virgin oil is obtained from the first pressing, when the natural acidity is lowest, but in some countries, olive oil may be labeled "extra virgin" even though it may be chemically treated to lower the acidity. A small quantity of first-pressed oil is then added to the refined oil to enhance the color and flavor. This is usually not the case in Italy, France, and Spain, which have the strictest regulations of all the countries that export olive oil to the United States.

In the United States, any olive oil labeled "extra virgin" or "virgin" must be oil obtained from the first pressing of the olives. Any oil that has been obtained through any non-mechanical processes (such as heat or chemical processes) cannot be labeled "virgin" or "extra virgin." Olive oil produced with heat or chemical methods usually has no taste or color and may have a small quantity of extra virgin olive oil added to provide both. It may be labeled "pure olive oil," which simply indicates that no other types of oil have been blended with the olive oil. Other names used to indicate pure olive oil are:

* Olive Oil
* 100% Olive Oil
* 100% Pure Olive Oil

Olive oils labeled as mild, light, or lite refer to the flavor of the oil as mild or light and do not designate oil that is low in calories. All types and grades of olive oil contain the same amount of calories (120 calories per tablespoon). Olive oils in this group are very popular among consumers who are looking for a healthy oil without a strong flavor. Some of the names given to these products include:

* Lite Olive Oil
* Mild Olive Oil
* Mild in Taste Olive Oil
* Light in Taste Olive Oil
* Mild in Taste, Virgin Olive Oil
* Light Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Many of the popular brands sold in food stores in the United States are a blend of bulk olive oils from one country or several countries, which allows the manufacturer to sell the product at a reasonable price. For example, you may notice a label that states that the olive oil is "a blend of select olive oils from Italy", or "a blend of select olive oils from Spain, Turkey, and Italy", and so on.

The label on most bottles of olive oil sold in the United States will display the following information:

* The grade of the oil: Extra Virgin, Virgin, etc.
* The country of origin, or the countries of origin if the oil is a blend of bulk oils.
* If the oil is extra virgin or premium extra virgin, the label may indicate "First Pressing", "Cold Pressing", or "First Cold Pressing."
* The level of acidity may be on the label.
* If the oil is a single estate oil, the name of the grower may be on the label.
* A single estate oil may contain the harvest date.
* The nutritional information will be listed on the label for bulk olive oil sold in the United States.


Olive Oil Cooking Guide

Sautéing | Pan-Frying | Deep-Frying
Stir-Frying | Grilling and Broiling | Baking | Cooking Tips

Olive oil helps to slow the cooking process and is very stable at high temperatures, making it an excellent choice for many different types of cooking methods. When used for cooking, olive oil brings out the true flavors of food and it retains all of its nutritional benefits, even when cooking with high heat.
Grade of Olive Oil
How it is Best Used in Cooking

Premium Extra Virgin

Extra Virgin
Cooking with high heat does not change the basic properties of olive oil, but it causes olive oil to lose some of its flavor. Because of this, it may be best to use expensive, flavorful, extra virgin olive oil for dishes that are not cooked or as a last minute addition to cooked dishes just before serving. Use it in salad dressings, in marinades, or add it to sauces. Drizzle it over slices of crusty bread or onto open-face sandwiches. Use it on a baked potato or add it to mashed potatoes instead of butter. Extra virgin olive oil tastes great on cooked vegetables or brushed onto fish or meat before serving.

Fine Virgin

Virgin

Semi-fine Virgin

Virgin olive oil is very versatile. It has great taste and aroma, so it may be used in the same manner as extra virgin varieties. Use virgin olive oil as a condiment or as an addition to cooked dishes before serving.

Virgin olive oil is an excellent cooking medium and because it is reasonably priced, you may be more inclined to use it instead of extra virgin. Use it for high-heat cooking methods such as sautéing, pan-frying, or broiling or use it when baking bread.
Olive Oil

Olive oil, or pure olive oil, refers to the fact that no other types of oils are blended with the olive oil. Unlike extra virgin and virgin grades, olive oil is obtained through refining processes, which eliminates all of the flavor. A small quantity of virgin oil is added for some taste and aroma. Since cooking causes all grades of olive oil to lose flavor, it may be more cost effective to use olive oil for cooking rather than more expensive virgin or extra virgin varieties. The refining processes also help to increase the smoke point to about 410ºF making olive oil very suitable for high heat cooking methods such as sautéing, pan-frying, stir-frying, and deep-frying. Even at high cooking temperatures, olive oil retains all of its healthy properties and brings out the true flavors of the food.
Lite Olive Oil
Mild Olive Oil
Mild in Taste Olive Oil
Light in Taste Olive Oil
Mild in Taste, Virgin Olive Oil
Light Extra Virgin Olive Oil

All of the olive oils that are designated mild, light, or lite are excellent for cooking. They have a high smoke point and a subtle flavor, which makes them very versatile. They can be used for any type of high-heat cooking method and they are ideal as a substitute for butter or other oils when baking breads and desserts. Because of the subtle flavor, the oil will not overpower the flavor of the baked item.

It is also worth noting that less olive oil is required than butter or margarine for baked goods. Three tablespoons of mild or light olive oil can be used as a substitute for recipes that require a quarter cup of butter.

Light or mild olive oils are very popular with consumers who want the versatility of olive oil without a strong olive taste. The nutritional and health benefits are an added bonus.
Flavored Olive Oils Olive oils flavored with citrus or various spices are most often produced with extra virgin olive oils. They are best used as a condiment for dipping bread, as a substitute for butter to top potatoes or steamed vegetables, or as an ingredient for salad dressings. They may be used in marinades, sauces, or drizzled on fish, poultry, or meat just before serving.

Sautéing

Sautéing is a cooking process using high heat that quickly browns and sears food in a small quantity of oil in a skillet. It is best suited for thin, tender cuts of meat that cook quickly such as thinly sliced beef or pork tenderloins or cuts that have been pounded and tenderized. Olive oil is an excellent cooking medium for sautéing.
Sautéing requires high heat, so it is best to use an oil that will not burn or smoke at high temperatures such as olive oil. The skillet must be preheated on the stove before adding the olive oil. Medium-high heat is sufficient to warm the pan to the proper temperature. If the heat is too high, the oil will begin to smoke shortly after it is poured into the pan. The food should be added to the pan just as the oil is on the verge of reaching the smoke point.

The food should also be as dry as possible before it is placed in the pan. If the food is not dry, a layer of steam will develop between the food and the olive oil and the surface of the food will not sear as is should.

The olive oil should sizzle when the food hits the pan. If the oil doesn't sizzle, the pan and oil are not hot enough.

When sautéing meat in olive oil, a tongs or spatula should be used to turn the meat once in the pan. Never use a fork because piercing the meat with a fork may allow juices to escape which will decrease the tenderness and flavor of the finished dish. A thin cut of meat should take no more than 2 to 3 minutes to cook per side.

Pan-Frying

Olive oil is ideal for pan-frying because it is the only cooking oil that preserves the actual taste of the food as it is fried. If not overheated, olive oil maintains is structural and nutritional components better than other oils.

Pan-frying is similar to sautéing except that a little more olive oil is used and since the process requires more time than sautéing, the food that is cooked does not have to be as thin. It is important that the olive oil is heated in the pan before food is placed in the pan to be fried. Food that is placed in a pan containing unheated olive oil, will soak up some of the oil. It is also important not to allow the oil to heat so long that it begins to smoke and burn, which will cause food to burn quickly on the outside before it has reached the proper doneness on the inside. The overheated oil will also ruin the flavor and aroma of the food.

When meat is pan-fried, it is patted with paper towels to remove excess moisture, seasoning is added, and then it is placed into a hot skillet containing heated olive oil. The oil should sizzle when the meat hits the pan. If it doesn't sizzle, the pan and oil are not hot enough.

The skillet should have a heavy bottom so that heat will be conducted more easily. A large, well-seasoned, cast-iron skillet works well or a heavy nonstick pan may be used. Make sure the pan is of adequate size so that there is plenty of room for the food to brown properly. If the pan is crowded, the food will steam more than it will brown. When pan-frying meat, do not use a fork to turn the meat in the pan because piercing the meat will allow juices to escape. A tongs or spatula are the best instruments to use.

Deep-Frying

Deep-frying, also known as deep-fat frying, is a process of immersing food in a pan or deep pot containing heated oil, which cooks the food quickly, producing a crispy surface over a tender and moist interior. It is best to use smaller pieces of food, such as strips or cubes of pork, beef, or poultry. Large pieces are difficult to handle, which increases safety concerns when cooking with hot oil.

The olive oil grade "olive oil," is excellent for deep-frying because it has a higher smoke point (410ºF) than virgin or extra virgin oils. Olive oil does not penetrate food during the cooking process as readily as some other types of oils, which results in a lower fat content in the finished dish.

There should be enough olive oil in the pan so that the food will be completely immersed when it is placed in the hot oil. The olive oil should be at a minimum depth of 2½ inches in the pan to properly cook smaller pieces of food. More oil may be required when cooking larger pieces.
A temperature between 350°F and 375°F is an ideal range for deep-frying. The olive oil grade "olive oil" has a smoke point of 410ºF, so it is an excellent choice for deep-frying (extra virgin and virgin olive oils have a lower smoke point than olive oil because they are unrefined). The correct temperature of the oil can be determined with the use of a candy thermometer.

To help prevent splattering, food should be as dry as possible before it enters the hot olive oil. The temperature of the oil may drop slightly when food is placed into it, so it may be necessary to increase the heat for a short time to return the oil to the proper cooking temperature.

Deep-frying is a safe process for cooking food if the proper equipment is used and common safety rules are followed:

* A wire basket may be used to hold the food so that it can be safely lowered and raised in the hot oil.
* Any utensils and equipment that come into contact with the hot oil must be thoroughly dried first. Moisture on the utensils will cause splattering, which can be dangerous.
* The hot oil should not be left unattended and children and pets should NEVER be allowed near the cooking area.
* A fire extinguisher and heavy potholders should always be within reach.
* After the cooking is completed, the oil should not be transferred to another container or disposed of until it has completely cooled. It is extremely dangerous to pour the hot oil from the cooking vessel.

Stir-Frying

The stir-frying process requires high heat and the tossing and stirring of ingredients in a large pan to ensure quick and even cooking. A cooking oil with a high smoke point should be used so that it will not burn at high temperatures. The olive oil grade "olive oil" is a good choice for stir-frying because it has a high smoke point (410ºF, due to refining) and can withstand the high temperatures necessary for stir-frying food. It is also one of the best choices because it contains no cholesterol and is very low in saturated fat.

A wok is the traditional type of pan to use for stir-frying because it has deep tapered sides which allows food to be stirred and tossed easily. If a wok is not available, a deep heavy skillet works very well for stir-frying and nonstick pans are also easy to use. Wood or metal utensils should be used to stir the food. Plastic utensils should be avoided because they can melt.

All of the ingredients must be prepared and within reach before the stir-fry process can begin. All vegetables should be chopped and ready to go. Precut vegetables can be purchased in most food stores, but they are more expensive. Herbs and spices and any liquid ingredients should be measured before beginning. It is helpful to place the ingredients in small bowls so that everything is organized.

It is important to add the proper quantity of olive oil to the pan. Only 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil is required per pound of ingredients.

Different ingredients must be added to the pan at the appropriate times to ensure that all the ingredients are cooked properly. Some of the vegetables may require a longer cooking time than others so they should be added to the pan first. If everything is placed in the pan at the same time, the results will be unsatisfactory. The ingredients should be cooked until tender, but they should never be overcooked.


Note: Olive oil that has been used for sautéing, pan-frying, deep-frying, or stir-frying may be used again. The oil can be filtered after it is used to remove any impurities. If a strongly flavored food was fried in the olive oil, the oil can be freshened by frying a piece of citrus fruit, such as lemon or lime, or pieces of potato before the oil is filtered for reuse. Olive oil may be used 3 or 4 times when cleansed and filtered between uses.

Grilling and Broiling

Grilling and broiling are essentially the same cooking technique: the application of intense, direct heat to the food, one side at a time. In grilling, the heat source is below the food; in broiling the heat source is above the food. The high heat necessary for grilling and broiling sears the surface of food, creating a flavorful browned crust.

In grilling, the temperature can be controlled by one of three methods:

* Raising or lowering the grilling rack, if it's adjustable, in relation to the heat source.
* By controlling the quantity and placement of the coals (charcoal grill).
* By having one or more burners turned off (gas grill).

In broiling, the temperature is adjusted by changing the distance between the food and the heat source. This is accomplished by changing the position of the oven racks in relation to the heat source.

When food is grilled, it is generally placed directly on the grilling rack, but when food is broiled, it is placed on a broiling pan. The broiling pan catches melting fat and juices that may drip from the food as it cooks. The broiling pan keeps the oven clean and it helps to prevent the fat from starting an oven fire.

Thinner pieces of food can be closer to the heat source than thicker pieces, since the thicker item will require more time to cook. If the thicker food item is too close to the heat source, the surface will char before the interior is cooked to the proper degree of doneness. Food should be watched carefully throughout the broiling process to make sure that it does not burn.

Many food items benefit from a coating of olive oil brushed onto the surface before they are grilled or broiled in order to enhance the flavor and provide a more crispy surface. To help prevent food from sticking while grilling, the cooking grate can be brushed with olive oil and then preheated on the grill before the food is placed on the grate.

Baking

Many people do not associate olive oil with baking, but it is one of the best oils that can be used for this purpose. Olive oil has been a favorite of bread bakers for centuries, because it results in bread with excellent flavor and texture. In Mediterranean countries, olive oil is used not only in bread making, but in other types of baked goods as well, including sweet items. In the United States, olive oil is used less often for baking, except in bread making. Many consumers in the U.S. are worried about baked items having a strong olive taste, however when light olive oil is used, it is difficult to detect an olive flavor in baked goods. Light olive oil is perfect for baking cakes, sweetly flavored breads, or rolls.

Using olive oil instead of butter in baking allows some of the fat required for a recipe to be eliminated. About 25% less olive oil is required for most baked items. The use of olive oil instead of butter also eliminates much of the saturated fat and cholesterol contained in many dessert cakes and rolls, making them healthier and more nutritious. The natural antioxidants (such as vitamin E) in olive oil help to keep baked items fresher for a longer period compared to items baked with butter.
Use the chart below to convert the quantity of butter
called for in a recipe to the required quantity of olive oil.
Butter Olive Oil
1 teaspoon 3/4 teaspoon
2 teaspoons 1-1/2 teaspoons
1 tablespoon 2-1/4 teaspoons
2 tablespoons 1-1/2 tablespoons
1/4 cup 3 tablespoons
1/3 cup 1/4 cup
1/2 cup 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons
2/3 cup 1/2 cup
3/4 cup 1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon
1 cup 3/4 cup

Cooking Tips

* Use olive oil in marinades for meat, fish, or poultry.
* Instead of serving butter with bread, pour some olive oil into a saucer or onto a small plate for dipping.
* If you plan on frying using butter, add a bit of olive oil to help prevent the butter from burning.
* Brush olive oil onto meats while broiling, grilling, or roasting to help brown the meat and seal in the juices.
* Use olive oil instead of butter on cooked vegetables.
* Substituting olive oil for butter in baked goods allows a smaller quantity to be used; in most cases up to 25% less fat is used when baking with olive oil. Light olive oil is ideal for baked goods because of its subtle flavor.
* The olive oil grade "olive oil," is excellent for deep-frying because it has a higher smoke point (410ºF) than virgin or extra virgin oils.
* When using olive oil for deep-frying, food should be as dry as possible before it enters the hot oil to prevent splattering.


Olive Oil Handling, Safety & Storage


Air, heat, light, and age affect the quality and the shelf life of olive oil, which deteriorates through oxidation (rancidity). The oxidation process is greatly enhanced when olive oil is stored in containers that are not air tight and in areas where it is exposed to heat and light. If improperly stored, olive oil can easily take on other flavors.

An unpleasant smell or taste indicates that olive oil is no longer desirable for consumption. A wine smell or taste may reveal that the olive oil was not stored properly. A metallic flavor indicates that the oil was stored in a container made with reactive metal. If olive oil has become rancid very quickly, it may prove that the oil was improperly stored and has oxidized.

Storage Containers

Olive oil can be kept longer than any other edible oil. Although it can get rancid, olive oil is less likely to become rancid than other oils, especially if it is stored properly. The best containers for storage are glass (especially tinted glass), ceramic, porcelain, or non-reactive metals such as stainless steel.

Olive oil will oxidize rapidly if it is not kept in a sealed container. If olive oil is stored in a bottle, always replace the cap on the bottle and keep it tightly sealed. Never put olive oil in a container that does not have a tight cap or some other method of sealing the container.

Do not store olive oil in containers made of reactive metals such as copper or iron. The chemical reaction between the olive oil and the metal will damage the oil and may produce toxins. Olive oil should not be stored in plastic containers because the oil may absorb PVC's from the plastic.

Temperature for Storage

The ideal temperature for storing olive oil is 57°F, although a normal room temperature of 70ºF works very well if the olive oil is stored in a dark area where the temperature remains fairly constant. Olive oil will solidify at 36ºF, but it will return to a liquid state as soon as the temperature rises. In colder weather, olive oil may turn cloudy, especially if the temperature of the storage area falls below 50ºF.

Locations for Storage

It is important to store olive oil in a cool, dark place. A wine cellar is an ideal place for storing olive oil because it is dark and the temperature is cool and constant. Since most of us do not own wine cellars, a kitchen cabinet located away from the stove and away from direct sunlight will work quite well.

Refrigeration will extend the life of olive oil without harming the oil. The oil will become cloudy and solidify in the refrigerator, but this will not significantly affect the quality or flavor. When the oil is warmed to room temperature it will return to a liquid state and its color will be restored. Refrigeration does not harm most grades of olive oil, but it is not recommended for expensive extra virgin varieties because condensation may develop in the bottle, affecting the flavor.

Shelf Life

Olive should keep a minimum of 15 months if it is properly stored. If it is stored in its original container and remains unopened, it should last for 2 years or more.

Olive oil has the best flavor when it is used within a year after it is pressed and it is at its peak within 2 or 3 months after pressing. Unlike many types of wine, olive oil does not improve with age. As olive oil ages, it continually degrades and the acidity level rises. As a result, an older bottle of olive oil may have an unpleasant odor and taste. The oil will be neither harmful if consumed, nor very pleasing.

Lower grades of olive oil usually have a shorter shelf life than top quality extra virgin oil because the acidity level is already higher at the time of bottling. A grade of olive such as semi-fine virgin, which has a much higher oleic acid content than extra virgin, may become less desirable after only a few months because the acidity level may rise to an unacceptable level.

Safety Concerns

1. Olive oil is safe to use even if it has oxidized. The flavor and aroma may not be very pleasant, but it is not harmful if consumed.
2. Some flavored olive oils have additives that may require refrigeration in order to preserve them. Others may not require refrigeration because of the process used when manufacturing the oil, so it is best to read the label carefully. It is usually not safe to make your own flavored olive oils at home and keep them for any length of time. Some flavoring agents may promote the growth of bacteria and can only be safely added with commercial processes. You may, however, prepare homemade flavored olive oils if they are used immediately and any leftover oil is disposed of.
3. A major safety concern is when olive oil (and any other cooking oil) is heated to very high temperatures for deep-frying. Consider the following points:

* A wire basket may be used to hold the food so that it can be safely lowered and raised in the hot olive oil.
* Any utensils and equipment that come into contact with the hot oil must be thoroughly dried first. Moisture on the utensils will cause splattering, which can be dangerous.
* The hot olive oil should not be left unattended and children and pets should NEVER be allowed near the cooking area.
* A fire extinguisher and heavy potholders should always be within reach.
* After the cooking is completed, the olive oil should not be transferred to another container or disposed of until it has completely cooled. It is extremely dangerous to pour the hot oil from the cooking vessel.


Olive Oil Tips and Techniques


Purchasing Tips | Cooking Tips | Tasting

Purchasing Tips

When purchasing a high quality, extra virgin olive oil, consider the following:

* The quality and flavor will differ greatly between different brands. Some shops specializing in olive oil may offer samples to help you decide on a specific oil. Prices for a half liter of high quality extra virgin olive oil may range from $7 to $32, which is comparable to a bottle of wine. In order to be a bit more affordable, expensive olive oils can be purchased in smaller sizes and then used occasionally for salads or as a condiment.
* When shopping for olive oil, keep in mind that the color of the oil depends on the type of olive and the degree of ripeness of the olive when it is harvested. An olive oil with a lighter green color may indicate that the olives were younger and were probably green or yellowish-green when picked. Some olive varieties produce a darker green oil when they are fully ripe. An olive oil with a yellow color may indicate that the olives where riper and had turned from green to blue, purple, or black.
* When purchasing a single estate oil, the age of the olive oil is important. Look for the harvest date on the label and ask questions before buying. Olive oil does not improve with age, so any oil that is older than 1½ years should not be purchased.
* The method of storing and displaying olive oil is important in order to avoid excessive heat and bright light, which causes olive oil to deteriorate. Olive oil that has been bottled in reactive metal containers such as copper or in plastic bottles, should not be purchased.
* Other popular sources for purchasing high quality olive oils are mail order catalogs and the Internet. Many individual olive oil producers issue catalogs and/or have Web sites that allow consumers worldwide to purchase various products.

Cooking Tips

* Use olive oil in marinades for meat, fish, or poultry.
* Instead of serving butter with bread, pour some olive oil into a saucer or onto a small plate for dipping.
* If you plan on frying using butter, add a bit of olive oil to help prevent the butter from burning.
* Brush olive oil onto meats while broiling, grilling, or roasting to help brown the meat and seal in the juices.
* Use olive oil instead of butter on cooked vegetables.
* Substituting olive oil for butter in baked goods allows a smaller quantity to be used; in most cases up to 25% less fat is used when baking with olive oil. Light olive oil is ideal for baked goods because of its subtle flavor.
* The olive oil grade "olive oil," is excellent for deep-frying because it has a higher smoke point (410ºF) than virgin or extra virgin oils.
* When using olive oil for deep-frying, food should be as dry as possible before it enters the hot oil to prevent splattering.

Tasting

Because no two batches of olive oil are ever the same, tasting is important. An inferior oil may ruin the flavor of food, but a good oil will enhance the flavors without overpowering the food. It is always best to taste olive oil first before it is used in cooking or in salads to ensure that the flavor is pleasing and it will work for the specific dishes that you have planned.

The criteria for judging olive oil is based on the aroma and the taste. The color of the olive oil is of little importance to the overall quality of the oil.
Aroma The alcohol, ketones, esters, and hydrocarbons present in the oil determine the aroma. Processing and storage methods also have an affect on the aroma.
Taste The taste of the olive oil is judged by its positive and negative taste characteristics and by its saltiness, acidity, bitterness, sharpness, and/or sweetness.
Color

The color of olive oil is not necessarily used as a criteria for quality. The color allows the judge to determine the age of the olives at harvest time. Young olives produce green colored oil and more mature olives produce a yellow color. Olive oil takes on a red tint as it oxidizes.

Judges are often blindfolded when tasting olive oil so the color is not known until after the tasting. An experienced judge may be able to determine the color based on the aroma and flavor characteristics of the oil.

The properties of aroma, taste, and color depend upon several factors including:

* Type of olives used
* Ripeness of the olives
* Location where the olives are grown
* Environmental factors
* Harvesting methods
* Time of the harvest
* Pressing techniques
* Packaging and storage methods

The table below lists some of the flavors and characteristics that are considered to be desirable or undesirable as judged by experts in olive oil tasting.
Positive Characteristics Negative Characteristics
Apple - a hint of apple flavor can be very desirable. Bitter - although a subtle bitterness is considered desirable, a strong bitter flavor is a negative trait.
Almond - subtle, nutty flavor, common in Spanish olive oils. Briny - a briny, salty flavor indicates the oil was produced from brined olives.

Artichoke - similar to an artichoke flavor.
Burnt - an undesirable flavor caused by an unacceptably high temperature during processing.
Astringent - the oil creates a puckering sensation in the mouth, which if not overpowering is considered to be a positive attribute. Dirty - this characteristic refers to oil that has remained in contact with the vegetable water, which was separated during pressing. The oil absorbs unpleasant flavors from the water.
Bitter - a bitterness that is very subtle is desirable. Earthy - musty and humid flavor and aroma.
Buttery - smooth, sweet, rich flavor. Flat - refers to olive oil that has lost most of its flavor and aroma.
Fresh - clean and crisp. Greasy - olive oil that has a petroleum flavor.
Fruity - similar flavor and aroma as a ripe olive. Most olive oils are fruity after pressing, but may soon change in flavor and aroma. An oil that is classified as fruity does not lose this characteristic. Musty - an unpleasant, moldy flavor that occurs in olive oil if the olives were stored too long before pressing.
Green - a young oil with a fresh, fruity or weedy aroma and flavor. Metallic - olive oil may absorb a metallic flavor from reactive metals, either during pressing or when stored. Reactive metals should not be used for the production or storage of olive oil.
Melon - a slight melon flavored aftertaste. Moldy - a pronounced moldy flavor caused by fermentation of olives that have been stored too long before pressing.
Musky - If not too strong, it can be very desirable. Rancid - a bad flavor caused by the oxidation of the olive oil because of exposure to air and/or light.
Peppery - a distinct peppery flavor that is common in many Italian olive oils. Rough - a pasty and greasy feel in the mouth.
Sweet - subtle, mildly sweet flavor found in mellow oils. Many French oils have this quality. Wine - olive oil that has a very acidic flavor.


Note: Olive oil is always of the best quality in the year it is produced, unlike wine, which may require several years to reach its peak.

Other Oils and Fats Introduction


Extraction Methods | Types of Fat Structures | Fat Composition

Extraction Methods

There are numerous oils and fats obtained from plant and animal sources that are used for hundreds of culinary, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic products. Some of the oils and fats are produced with refining or rendering processes that usually involve heat and some are simply obtained through pressing. Oils that are obtained through cold extraction, such as olive oil, are usually more expensive than highly refined oils and fats obtained through high heat extraction methods.
Cold Extraction Methods
Cold Pressed Cold pressing refers to oils obtained through pressing and grinding fruit or seeds with the use of heavy granite millstones or modern stainless steel presses, which are found in large commercial operations. Although pressing and grinding produces heat through friction, the temperature must not rise above 120ºF for any oil to be considered cold pressed. The maximum temperature for cold pressed olive oil is somewhat lower. Olive, sesame, peanut, and sunflower are among the oils obtained from cold pressing. (Highly refined versions of these oils are also produced.) Cold pressed oils retain all of their flavor, aroma, and nutritional value.
Vacuum Extraction Vacuum extraction is another method of cold extraction that produces oils with an expeller process. The process occurs in an atmosphere with no oxygen or light. The temperature during the expeller process may be as low as 70ºF.
Heat Extraction Methods
Expeller Pressed Expeller pressing is like cold pressing except that extreme pressure is added during the pressing. As much pressure as 15 tons per square inch is used to squeeze the oil from the fruit or seeds. The high pressure also produces high heat (as high as 300ºF ) through friction, so the oils produced with the expeller process cannot be considered cold pressed. The oils obtained with this method retain much their flavor, aroma, and nutritional value, but not to the extent of cold pressed oils.
Solvent Extraction Chemical solvents are used to extract oil, which is then boiled to eliminate most of the solvents. Further refining such as bleaching, deodorizing, and heating to high temperatures cleanses the oil, resulting in a product that has very little of the original flavor, aroma, or nutrients contained in the seeds or fruit before processing. Most of the oils produced with this method have a high smoke point and a long shelf life.



Types of Fat Structures

All oils and fats are 100% fat, but the components that make up the fat structure of a particular oil are important in determining whether or not the oil or fat is considered healthy. While some oils such as olive and canola oil are considered very healthy, all oils are high in calories (about 120 calories per tablespoon) so they should be consumed in moderation.
Unsaturated Fats
Polyunsaturated Fat

The main sources of polyunsaturated fats are seeds, nuts, grains, and vegetables. Polyunsaturated fat is usually in a liquid state at room temperature and also when chilled. It lowers the overall cholesterol level, but it also reduces HDL or good cholesterol. Recommended daily allowances of polyunsaturated fats should be part of a balanced diet, but some tests have shown that high consumption may actually be damaging to the digestion and nervous systems, so moderation is the key for a balanced and healthy diet.

Omega-3 fatty acid is a type of polyunsaturated fat that is especially healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, guard against plaque buildup in the arteries, and aid in brain development. It is found in some plant oils and in the tissues of all sea creatures. Among the plant oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids are flax seed, canola, and soybean oil. Fish that are particularly high in omega-3 are sardines, herring, tuna, and salmon.
Monounsaturated Fat Most animal and vegetable fats contain monounsaturated fat, but in varying quantities. It is usually in liquid form at room temperature, but it may begin to solidify if it is chilled. Monounsaturated fat is the most desirable type of fat in the diet because it helps to decrease the LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood and helps to increase the HDL (good) cholesterol. Good sources of monounsaturated fat are olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and most nuts. Olive oil has the highest percentage (about 77%) of monounsaturated fat of any edible oil.
Saturated Fats
Saturated Fat Animal fats, butter, cream, and whole milk are the primary sources of saturated fat, which is the least healthy type of fat. Saturated fat raises the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol, which causes numerous health problems if consumed in large quantities. Most saturated fats are solid at room temperature.
Hydrogenated Oils Trans-fatty acid, also known as trans-fat, is formed when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil in order to change the liquid oil into a solid at room temperature. This process is known as hydrogenation, which also transforms the unsaturated fats of the liquid oils into saturated fat. Like saturated fat, trans-fat may raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart related diseases. Many shortenings, margarine, and commercially baked goods are high in trans-fatty acids.

One advantage that hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats have is that they are less likely to turn rancid, which is very beneficial to the commercial food industry in creating foods with a longer shelf life. As with any type of food containing saturated fat, foods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat should be enjoyed in moderation in order to maintain a balanced and healthy diet.



Fat Composition

Fat Composition of Various Oils and Fats

(Percentages in bold indicate that an oil contains either the highest
or lowest level among edible oils for a particular fat component.)
Type of Oil or Fat Saturated Monounsaturated Polyunsaturated
Mustard Oil 1% 76% 23%
Canola Oil 6% 62% 32%
Almond Oil 8% 73% 19%
Hazelnut Oil 10% 76% 14%
Safflower Oil 10% 13% 77%
Sunflower Oil 11% 20% 69%
Grape Seed Oil 12% 17% 71%
Corn Oil 13% 25% 62%
Olive Oil 14% 77% 9%
Sesame Oil 14% 40% 46%
Walnut Oil 14% 19% 67%
Soybean Oil 15% 24% 61%
Peanut Oil 18% 49% 33%
Avocado Oil 20% 70% 10%
Margarine (Soft) 20% 47% 33%
Wheat Germ Oil 20% 30% 50%
Cottonseed Oil 24% 26% 50%
Lard 41% 47% 12%
Palm Oil 52% 38% 10%
Cocoa Butter 62% 35% 3%
Butter 66% 30% 4%
Margarine (Hard) 80% 14% 16%
Palm Kernel Oil 86% 12% 2%
Coconut Oil 92% 6% 2%



Types of Edible Oils

Types of Edible Oils

Almond Oil

Like many of the other oils obtained from nuts, almond oil is very expensive so the demand for it is limited. It has a subtle toasted almond aroma and flavor and is suitable for salad dressings and as an addition to sauces. It is often used in desserts however, unlike almond extract, almond oil is not concentrated enough to provide a strong almond taste to sweets. It has a high smoke point so it may be used for high heat cooking. Almond oil is a good source of monounsaturated fat and vitamins A and E and is often used as a food supplement and a body oil. It is most often available in gourmet shops and in some food stores.

Common Uses: salad dressings, ingredient for sauces, desserts, nutritional supplement, body oil

Apricot Kernel Oil

Apricot kernel oil is obtained from the dried kernels of the apricot tree. The oil is usually expeller pressed from the kernels and some brands may use additional refining procedures, which does not allow the oil to be labeled cold pressed or unrefined. It is high in monounsaturated fat and contains no trans-fatty acids, so it is a very healthy oil. It is suitable for high heat cooking methods, such as sautéing and pan-frying, and the mild flavor makes it a good choice for salad dressings. It is also popular as a body oil. Apricot kernel oil is most often available in gourmet shops and in some food stores.

Common Uses: cooking, salad dressings, body oil

Argan Oil

Argan oil is obtained from the nuts grown on argan trees, which are native to southwestern Morocco. The argan tree is not common in any other area of the world, although efforts are underway to grow this variety of tree in other countries. The tree is twisted and gnarled in appearance with thorny branches yielding a green fruit containing a hard-shelled interior that covers several almond-like nuts. The oil obtained from the nuts is expensive due to the slower traditional methods of production. 20 to 30 hours of work is required to produce one liter of oil. After processing, the remaining by-product is a deep brown, thick paste referred to as "amlou", which is similar to tahini or peanut butter and is most often used as a dip or spread that is served over bread, toast, or crackers.

Argan oil has a golden yellow color with a slight reddish tint and a pleasing nutty aroma. It provides a smooth, roasted nut flavor somewhat similar to hazelnuts, but with a somewhat sharp overtone. It is available in gourmet and specialty shops as well as Middle-Eastern markets.

Common Uses: cooking, salad dressings, condiment

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil has a light, but unique flavor that makes it an excellent choice for salad dressings or for use as a condiment. It is usually produced from avocados that are damaged or not aesthetically pleasing. Refined avocado oil has the highest smoke point of any plant oil, so it is useful for high heat cooking. It is a good source of monounsaturated fat and vitamin E, which makes it nutritionally beneficial. Avocado oil can be found in some specialty shops.

Common Uses: high heat cooking, salad dressings, condiment

Canola Oil

Canola is the marketing name for oil that is obtained from rapeseeds. Bright yellow rape crops can be spotted in fields in many parts of Europe and North America. The oil is popular in Japan, China, and India and it is the most widely used oil in Canada. It is also popular in the northern United States and is gaining popularity throughout the remainder of the country.

Canola oil is also known as LEAR oil, or "Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed" oil. It has the lowest level of saturated fat of any edible oil and has one of the highest levels of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. It also contains a high level of omega-3 fatty acids, which is a polyunsaturated fat that helps to decrease the risk of heart disease and lowers blood pressure. Because it is mildly flavored and inexpensively priced, canola oil is an excellent choice for cooking or baking, or as an ingredient for salad dressings.

Common Uses: frying, baking, salad dressings

Chile Oil

Chile oil is derived from hot, red chiles that have been steeped in vegetable oil to extract the flavor and heat. If kept at room temperature, chile oil will last for at least 6 months and the flavor and heat will last somewhat longer if it is stored in the refrigerator. It is most often used as a flavoring and should not be used as a cooking oil because the strong flavor will overpower the food. It is very popular in the creation of Chinese dishes.

Common Uses: flavoring ingredient, condiment

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is extracted from the dried meat of the coconut and is very popular in India and Southeast Asia. It solidifies at room temperature and has a buttery texture.

In the United States, coconut oil is most often used in commercially prepared products such as cookies, candies, ice cream, whipped toppings, and nondairy coffee creamers. Coconut oil is also used in the manufacture of various cosmetics, soaps, lotions, and suntan oils and is very beneficial in maintaining healthy skin.

Coconut oil contains a high level of saturated fat (92%). It is generally agreed among nutritionists and health professionals that foods with high levels of saturated fats should be avoided, but this may not be true with coconut oil. There are several studies that have indicated that the saturated fat in coconut oil metabolizes in the body similar to an unsaturated fat and as a result, LDL (bad) cholesterol will not increase.

It has been suggested that coconut oil is much like a carbohydrate: it digests rapidly and it is used for immediate energy rather than being stored as fat. As a result, a greater quantity of coconut oil can be consumed before it is stored as fat. Some studies have indicated that adding coconut oil to the diet may contribute to weight loss because it satisfies hunger and decreases the appetite. People who have problems in receiving adequate nourishment, such as AIDS patients, have benefited from the addition of coconut oil to their diets. There is also evidence that because coconut oil is digested much like a carbohydrate, it may improve athletic performance and endurance.

Despite all of the studies and individual testimonials, there are an equal number of health professionals and organizations that disagree with the claims of the positive effects associated with coconut oil. In promoting healthy food choices, both the USDA and the FDA recommend a diet low in saturated fat and the American Heart Association is skeptical concerning the studies indicating the health benefits of coconut oil. It is evident that more scientific studies will be necessary before the claimed health benefits of coconut oil can be proven.

Common Uses: commercial baked goods, candy and sweets, commercially prepared whipped toppings, nondairy coffee creamers, shortening production, soaps, cosmetics, lotions, suntan oil

Corn Oil

Corn oil is produced from the endosperm of corn kernels and it is very high in polyunsaturated fat. Refined corn oil is one of the best oils for frying because it has a high smoke point. It has a light golden color and is almost tasteless and odorless so it is also a good choice for baking. It can be used for salad dressings when oil with little or no taste is required. Corn oil is often used in the manufacture of margarine.

Common Uses: frying, baking, salad dressings, margarine and shortening production

Cottonseed Oil

Cottonseed oil is pressed from the seeds of the cotton plant. It is almost always blended with other oils for the creation of various vegetable oils and it is also used in the manufacture of margarine, salad dressings, and commercially prepared fried products.

Common Uses: margarine and shortening production, salad dressings, commercially fried products

Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseed oil is obtained from the seeds of the flax plant. When it is processed, the oil is first cold pressed from the seeds, which provides an edible oil for use with foods. The seeds are then hot pressed to produce an industrial oil and solvent, known as linseed oil, which is not edible.

Flaxseed oil has a smooth, buttery flavor, which makes it ideal as a salad oil or as an addition to cooked vegetables. Since it has a very high level of omega-3 fatty acid (a polyunsaturated fat considered of value in reducing potential stroke and heart disease problems), flaxseed oil is most often used as a nutritional supplement rather than for cooking.

Common Uses: nutritional supplement, salad dressings, condiment

Grape Seed Oil

Grape seed oil is a byproduct of the winemaking industry. The majority of oil extracted from grape seeds is produced in France, Switzerland, and Italy, but there are also a few producers in the United States. Most of the grape seed oil sold in the United States has very little flavor, but there is a small quantity, mostly sold in gourmet shops, that actually has a grapey flavor and aroma. The subtle flavor of grape seed oil is well suited for many types of salads because the oil will not overpower the other ingredients. It may also be combined with stronger flavored, more expensive oils, which makes them more economical to use. Refined grape seed oil has a high smoke point so it is an excellent choice as a cooking oil, especially when sautéing or frying. It can be stored without refrigeration if the storage temperature does not climb above 70ºF.

Common Uses: cooking, salad dressings, margarine production, cosmetics

Hazelnut Oil

Hazelnut oil has a strong, roasted hazelnut flavor and is generally used as a flavoring for baked goods and for some sauces. It is excellent when brushed on fish and it works well as a marinade. This brown colored oil can also be added to mildly flavored oils to create rich tasting salad dressings.

Hazelnut oil is expensive and it is usually found in gourmet shops, although some food stores may have a supply. If it is stored in a cool dark cupboard, it will remain fresh for as long as 3 months, but it is best to store it in the refrigerator to prevent it from becoming rancid. If refrigeration causes the oil to solidify, it can be restored to a liquid state by leaving it at room temperature for an hour or two. Hazelnut oil is popular in France, which is where most of it is produced.

Common Uses: salad dressings, baking, flavoring ingredient, condiment

Mustard Oil

Mustard oil is obtained from pressing mustard seeds from plants found in India, which differs from the more common seeds that are found in the Mediterranean. In its raw form the oil is flavorful, but extremely hot, so it should be used sparingly as a flavoring ingredient. When cooking with mustard oil, it should be brought to its smoking point before food is cooked in it. When the oil reaches the smoking point, a taste change occurs that results in a smoother mustard flavor, which will not overpower the food while it is being cooked.

Mustard oil is widely used in Indian cooking and is a popular addition to salad dressings, stir-fry recipes, and marinades for meat and fish. It is available in Indian and Mid-Eastern grocery stores. It will stay fresh for 6 months or more if it is stored in the refrigerator.

Common Uses: cooking, flavoring ingredient, salad dressings, marinade

Palm Oil

Palm oil is another of the few plant products that is very high in saturated fat. The oil is obtained from the pulp of the fruit of the African palm. It has a red-orange color, a strong unique flavor, and is very popular in the preparation of dishes native to the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Western Africa. A highly refined version of palm oil has very little color and is usually blended with other oils for the creation of generic vegetable fats and oils.

Common Uses: cooking, flavoring ingredient, vegetable oil production

Palm-Kernel Oil

Palm-kernel oil differs from palm oil in that it is extracted from the kernel rather than the fruit of the palm. It has a light yellow color and it has a milder flavor than palm oil. Like coconut oil, it is extremely high in saturated fat, but because the saturated fat in the oil is plant based, some studies suggest that it does not raise LDL (bad) cholesterol in the body (see coconut oil). Palm-kernel oil is often used in the manufacture of various cosmetics and in some brands of margarine.

Common Uses: margarine production, cosmetics

Peanut Oil

In the United States, the oil obtained from peanuts is almost clear and has a mild flavor due to the refining process that is used. The Chinese version has more of a peanut taste and aroma. Refined peanut oil has a high smoke point so it is an excellent choice for sautéing and frying. It does not absorb or transfer flavors from food during the cooking process. It is also high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which makes it a healthy oil to use for cooking or as a base for dressings. It