Olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, canola oil or butter?

Extra virgin olive oils
Extra virgin olive oils in an Andalucian grocery store.

One of our readers send us email asking why sometimes we use regular olive oil and sometimes extra virgin. Well, rather than answering to just her, we decided to make a blog post about the matter, since it might interest other readers, too.

Basically there are two factors you have to keep in mind:

  1. smoke point
  2. taste

Smoke point means that if you heat the oil, its taste changes to worse when you reach the smoke point. Therefore you have to keep in mind what oil to use for what purpose. For example canola oil is often used for frying, because its smoke point is higher than for olive oil. Here is the list of smoke point temperatures for different types of oils and butter.

The other thing to consider is the taste. Butter tastes different than canola oil. Extra virgin olive oil taste different than regular one. Butter mixes nicely when frying fish or steak, canola oil is great for deep frying when you need higher temperatures and olive oil adds taste when frying stuff on low heat. Extra virgin is generally used for marinades and salad dressings, because its smoke point is low and it is very tasty.

To make things easy, here’s our list how to choose the right oil for right purpose:

Butter Canola oil Olive oil Extra virgin olive oil
Frying mushrooms, fish or steak Yes
Deep frying Yes On low, yes
Generic frying Yes Yes Yes
Marinade Yes Yes
Salad dressing Yes

¡Buen provecho!

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