Extra light olive oil is olive oil that has been heavily refined so that it has a pale color and minimal flavor. The term is also not heavily governed by food regulation agencies in many countries, so the ingredients in this oil may vary. Since it has a higher smoking point than many other types of olive oil, it is suitable for high heat cooking and baking. The neutral flavor makes it a poor choice for dishes in which the taste of olive oil is desired, however.
There are several ways to make extra light olive oil. The first involves heavily refining olive oil through heating and a series of filters. The end product is a very pale oil that is virtually scentless and has a very light flavor. Other producers make olive oil extra light by adding virgin olive oil to other oils, such as vegetable or canola. The resulting oil has a high smoking point and a very light flavor provided by adding a dash of olive oil.
The labeling of olive oil can be somewhat misleading. Some consumers, especially in the United States, associate “light” and “extra light” with foods that are low in fat. Extra light olive oil has the same fat content as regular oil, since olive oil is 100% fat. In this instance, the “light” is a reference to the color and flavor.
Like other oils, extra light olive oil should be stored in a cool dry place to prevent it from going rancid. When stored well, the olive oil should last for around six months. Refrigeration can extend the life for up to one year. If an oil is flavored with additions such as peppers and herbs, refrigeration is highly recommended since the plant material can cause it to go rancid more quickly.
When frying foods or subjecting them to high heat, extra light olive oil is a good choice of cooking oil. The dish can always be finished with virgin or extra virgin olive oil for its flavor without the risk of burning. When making baked goods such as breads, this oil can also be used, as it is generally agreed that the flavor of virgin olive oil burns off when it is exposed to high heat, making the use of such oils in baking and high-heat cooking rather wasteful.