I am not going into a vast description of extra virgin and normal olive oil etc etc as these arguments have been rehashed ad nauseum. There is one simple bottom line. The only Olive oil you should even consider using irrespective of what you will be using it for is fine quality extra virgin olive oil. Please take careful note of the olive oil you are served next time you go out to a restaurant. Please make sure you sure not served something called Pomace. It is the carcinogenic residue of the olive oil making process and is in fact outlawed in some countries. Try to be certain of the fact that your restaurant is not using it in the back. Look out for it on the shelves of supermarkets and avoid at all costs. It is often very misleadingly labelled. Another huge fraud is the passing off of so called olive and vegetable oil blends as olive oil. If the oil at your local supermarket is suspiciously cheap be extremely wary and read the label carefully.

Try to buy only reputable international brands but preferably buy local. South African olive oils are generally of a very fine quality. Many of our local oils like Morgenster, Hamilton Russell, Olyfbergh, Rio Largo, Costa and others have won major international awards and even though they often look expensive compared to the cheap imported oils on the shelf they are of a considerably better quality and truly hand crafted products. To get the imported specialist olive oils that are estate produced like our fine local oils you will need to go to more specialised delis and pay as much as R300 for 500ml which makes our local oils something of a bargain.

Depending where they come from our local oils are often also very expressive of their terroir and of course of the varietal they are produced from. Some are rich and nutty and others pungently peppery and fresh. It is a good idea to keep smaller bottles of different styles of olive oil at home for different purposes and for different cuisines. Use small bottles as it is unwise to keep olive oil for long once opened as like any other fresh product it oxidises and goes rancid fairly quickly. Another old wives tale that must be debunked is that olive oil is not good for frying. Any oil used at too high a temperature breaks down and is not only unhealthy but unpleasant tasting. Olive oil used for frying has no cholesterol and often adds a pleasant and complex flavour component to your dish.

The oil you use is very important for your overall health. The oil a restaurant uses is a sign of respect for the client and the integrity of the owner. It is also a sign of the attention that will be shown in general to food safety in the kitchen environment and the level of training of the chef. The oil that a supermarket sells is a sign of honesty of the management and the quality of the produce and the attention given to selling the best product to the consumer.

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Comment by Socratis Avgitidis on April 21, 2012 at 14:08

Ah! A subject close to my heart! I am an olive oil fanatic. 

Olive oil is the basis for any good meal and even a simple salad without a good quality virgin olive oil has no substance. Seeing that local producers have really upped their game in terms of quality, no restaurant should have any excuse for not serving good olive oil.

Oh and lets not get into the argument of which is finer, Italian or Greek olive oil:)

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