Extra light olive oil is a type of olive oil that specifically has been processed and blended to create oil that has a lighter color, an almost unnoticeable flavor and a higher smoking point for cooking. Choosing the best extra light olive oil can be difficult, because there is no standard for what constitutes extra light, meaning the actual flavor and properties of the oil can vary from one manufacturer to the next. One factor that can determine which oil is the best can be the types and amounts of oils that are used to create the blend, and the amount of extra virgin olive oil that is added for discrete olive flavor. Another factor can be the method used to process the extra light olive oil, because filtering, chemical processing and heating can each yield a slightly different flavor. Depending on the final use for the olive oil, it sometimes can be better to choose either a mild virgin olive oil or a neutral baking oil instead of attempting to use extra light olive oil.
In many instances, extra light olive oil is created by taking olive oil, processing it until it has lost much of its color and its strong flavor, and combining the resulting oil with some low-flavor oils and a little extra virgin olive oil for taste. The difference in the flavor of the extra light varieties can come largely from the exact blend of oils used. Oils that have a high amount of canola, vegetable, corn or soybean oil added will have a milder, unnoticeable flavor. The amount of extra virgin olive oil that is added for flavor can make a difference, both by darkening the color of the oil and by adding a distinctive olive taste.
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The base olive oil that is used to make extra light olive oil often has to be processed even beyond the initial methods used to extract the oil from the olives. In some cases, this can affect the final taste of the oil. Oil that uses heat for processing to dull the olive taste can have a thicker body. If the oil has been processed with chemicals, then there is a tendency for the oil to be slightly more bitter than usual. Physical filtering, in general, creates the most neutral flavor of all.
Extra light olive oil might not always be the best choice, despite the health benefits of olive oil. For cooking methods such as frying over high heat or deep frying, more traditional cooking oils such as canola oil might be better suited. Should the oil be used in a salad dressing and some mild olive taste be desired, then a mild-tasting virgin olive oil could be a better choice.