Published July 1, 2005. From Cook's Illustrated.
We prefer regular (not extra-virgin) olive oil for cooking because of its less assertive flavor and greater resistance to burning. But we still wanted a brand that tasted like olive oil.
Extra-virgin olive oil is often called for in uncooked recipes, such as vinaigrettes, where its rich, assertive, fruity flavor can be fully appreciated. For cooking, however, “regular” olive oil, with its more restrained flavor and higher smoke point, is often the better choice. Olive oil is produced by combining a chemically refined and very neutral olive oil with virgin or extra-virgin olive oil to boost its color, aroma, and flavor. Olive oil contains only some of the fullness of flavor of extra-virgin olive oil. It is also less expensive.
We gathered seven different supermarket brands of olive oil in the test kitchen and held a blind tasting. Fifteen members of the America’s Test Kitchen staff tasted the oils straight from the bottle, with bread offered to cleanse palates.
Several of the oils were extremely bland or mild; they might as well have been vegetable oil. Our favorite tasted like olive oil, but it was significantly milder than our favorite supermarket extra-virgin olive oil.