Olive oil is one of the most ubiquitous cooking oils in the modern American kitchen, so you’d think that the average person would know more about it.
For example, how do you know if the oil you just picked up at the store is any good? Is it even fresh?
We started this series to explore what’s behind the label of the olive oils you’ll find at your local grocer. After all, we should probably be choosing our primary ingredients based on something other than the label art. And, hey..no judgement here! I’ve done the same.
In This Article
EVOO vs. Olive Oil
As a home chef, you should (almost) always reach for Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) over any other designation of olive oil. Simply put, it’s a higher quality product.
Let me explain.
EVOO is made by cold-pressing fresh picked olives. No heat or chemicals are used in the process. This method retains the natural flavors and nutritional properties of the olives. And that’s what we’re after!
The actual flavor of EVOO depends highly on the growing region, type of olives used, and the maturity at which they were picked.
On the other hand, regular olive oil is made through a refining process that removes most of the nutritional value and flavor from the product.
It does have a higher smoke point which allows it to withstand higher temperatures without burning, compared to EVOO. But the truth is there are probably better oils for frying and sautéing.
If you’re looking for a healthy oil with a distinctive oil, EVOO is a great place to start and stop your search.
Tracking down the world’s best olive oil for your palate will take time and a lot of tasting. The best way to find the flavors you love is through experience. As a starting point, it can be helpful to hone in on the most distinctive flavors from each olive oil producing region.
Through this series of articles, we will be exploring some of the most iconic flavors, specialties, and traditions from the world’s top olive producing regions.
If you live in North America, you’re probably aware of at least a few household names. Italian olive oil is especially popular in the US, and distributors have done a great job of creating a brand for it here.
It’s worth noting up front that “Italian olive oil” is only the tip of the EVOO iceberg, and also not very precise.
Did you know that there are 18 distinctive olive regions in Italy? We discovered when speaking with industry pros, the characteristics of olive oil and where it comes from can get granular very quickly.
For purposes of our exploration, each article in this series will focus on a single country of origin. We took this approach to make the content digestible, and because in the US most olive oil bottles are labeled clearly to indicate the production country.
We spoke with industry experts from some of the top olive producing countries to understand what makes their olive oil unique from the rest of the world,