We read in most recipes that they need olive oil but when we look at the shelves, we face a variety of oils for which we don’t know anything about. So, which one should we use for our favorite recipes and why? Which is their difference? How do we choose? This is what this article will explain to you
Olive Oil …explained simple!!!
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is coming from olives cultivated, harvested and cold pressed the same evening in specific conditions to retain each variety characteristics.
If we refer to Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, it comes from olives cultivated, harvested and cold pressed the same evening in specific conditions without chemical-synthetic fertilizers and soil herbicides at all. Furthermore, the whole organic process, from the crop to the bottling is under specific regulations to protect the quality of this fine EVOO.
So, these oils are the best quality you can get with all the healthy attributes that have made famous the olives, Greek diet and/or Mediterranean diet.
Now all this process has leftovers that somehow producers want to find a profitable use for. Many times, also it happens that the olive oil produced cannot meet the standards that the extra virgin olive oil category demands. So again, producers had to find a way to find a place in the market for all these products or by-products and that is how all the rest of the categories we refer to bellow were born.
To conclude, the olive oil quality is determined by many factors. The three basics are the cultivation methods, the fruit processing and last is what comes out of this process if is pure or adulterated. Pure or unrefined are only the olive oils called extra virgin olive oils and adulterated or refined are all the rest. Different amount of adulteration comes with a different name and some are not even created by olives but from the leftovers of the process of the olive in the mill.
Refined vs. Unrefined Olive Oil
Olive oil also falls into two distinct categories: refined and unrefined. While unrefined oils are pure and untreated, refined oil is treated to remove or cover flaws from the oil, making it more sellable.
Refined oils have little or no fresh olive aroma, flavor or color. They also have no bitterness which is actually a sign of a healthy olive oil full of polyphenols. They only have a few percent of an extra-virgin oil just to get a light color.
In contrast to unrefined extra-virgin olive oil, refined oils lack the important antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that make extra-virgin oil so special.
About Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is an unrefined oil and the highest-quality olive oil you can buy. There are very specific standards oil has to meet to receive the label “extra-virgin.”
Extra virgin olive oil is strictly checked for “sensory defects” that include: rancid, fusty, musty, winey (vinegary) and muddy sediment. These defects can occur for different reasons. The most common are:
- Raw material (olives) infected or battered
- Inadequate harvest, with contact between the olives and soil
- Improper process or/and improper storage conditions
The composition of olive oil varies with the cultivar, altitude, time of harvest and extraction process. It consists mainly of oleic acid (up to 83%), with smaller amounts of other fatty acids including linoleic acid (up to 21%) and palmitic acid (up to 20%). Extra virgin olive oil is required to have no more than 0.8% free acidity and is considered to have favorable flavor characteristics.
Origin of extra virgin olive oil plays an important role on the final characteristics the oil acquires as well as the longevity that is has. That is why it is very important the origin of each EVOO and that is why we have a specific designation you will see in some bottles of extra virgin olive oil.
“PDO” and “PGI” designate products linked to specific parts of Europe, as defined by the European Commission. The designations are meant to help avoid confusion over inappropriate claims about product origins. “PDO” stands for Protected Designation of Origin (Italian: Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or DOP). “PGI” means Protected Geographical Indication.
Cooking with Extra Virgin Olive oil
An important myth that we have to refer to is that extra-virgin olive oil has a lower smoke point than many other oils, which means it burns at a lower temperature. You will hear that from many along with the advice to save it for dipping bread, dressing, dips, cold dishes etc. That is all a myth not reality. The science behind extra virgin olive oil has proved the opposite true and surely chemists know best.
So here is the science facts only. Extra virgin olive oil has three key qualities that make it an excellent cooking oil: it contains predominantly stable monounsaturated fatty acids (87%) which are largely resistant to heat. The same is not true of oils high in polyunsaturated fats such as sunflower or generic ‘vegetable’ oil. Extra virgin olive oil also has a low level of free fatty acids and it has a high level of protective antioxidants.
Studies have shown that when we cook veggies in extra virgin olive oil, the overall level of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds rises significantly. Extra virgin olive oil’s smoke point is somewhere around 374–405°F (190–207°C). This makes it a good choice for most cooking methods. So, we get a double whammy benefit of the good fats present and a greater availability of protective compounds.
Quality extra virgin olive oil is an especially healthy fat that retains its beneficial qualities during cooking due to its monounsaturated fatty acids and Vitamin E.
Moreover, olive oil is quite resistant to heat and doesn’t oxidize or go rancid during cooking. Not only is it an excellent cooking oil, but it is also the healthiest.
So, it is the only one from the vegetable oils with which you can fry food up to three times unless you rise the temperature over the 220°C.
About Virgin Olive Oil
Next in quality, as categorized by the standards of the International Olive Council, is virgin olive oil. It’s made using a similar process as extra-virgin olive oil and is also an unrefined oil, meaning chemicals or heat are not used to extract oil from the fruit. Virgin olive oil also maintains the purity and taste of the olive, though production standards are not as rigid.
Virgin Olive Oil has acidity between 0.8% and 2%. It also has a slightly less intense flavor and aroma than extra-virgin olive oil.
About Pure, Regular or just Olive Oil
You may also recognize oil labeled as simply olive oil or pure olive oil — this is what we’d consider “regular” olive oil. This oil is typically a blend of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil (heat and/or chemicals are used in the process of extracting oil and removing flaws from the fruit).
Pure olive oil is a lower-quality oil than extra-virgin or virgin olive oil, with a lighter color, more neutral flavor. Olive Oil acidity is less than 1%.
What About Light Olive Oil?
This is the type of olive oil where the name may spark some confusion. “Light” doesn’t refer to this olive oil being lower in calories. Rather, it is a marketing term used to describe the oil’s lighter flavor. Light olive oil is a refined oil that has a neutral taste and a higher smoke point as marketed.
What About Pomace Oil?
It is the blend of refined pomace oil and refined virgin oil with acidity not higher than 1%.
Can They Be Substituted for Each Other?
No you can not substitute exra virgin olive oil with anything. Your second best solution is virgin olive oil but that is as low as you can go if you really care about your health.
Vital-Foods Health Team