You walk into a bar. No, wait, this from another joke!
Ok, seriously – you walk into a grocery store. You go straight to the olives aisle expecting to find a nice good olive oil to buy for your salad.
And there you have it. Ten’s of options. Expensive oils, lower cost oils, extra virgin olives, virgin olives, simple oils… So it is no wonder why when you see the olive oil shelves you scratch your head and you can’t really understand what to buy.
In this post, we will clarify what is the difference between olive oil (the simple, regular olive oil) and the extra virgin olive oil (Evoo for short).
The main difference between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil is simply the process that it is made.
Well, not so fast. “If “olive oil” is just the oil that’s obtained from the fruit of olive trees, then what’s the big difference?”, I hear you ask. Well, for starters, there are different grades of olive oil, as well as measurements of acidity.
How Olive Oil Is Graded
When we extract the oil from the olives, we also extract certain acids, called oleic acids. Olive oil is graded by its level of its acidity, first.The amount of oleic acid in olive oil indicates the extent to which fat has broken down into fatty acids.
Refined vs. Unrefined Olive Oil
At the same time, olive oil, when it is extracted, we use different processing methods and times to extract different olives. Generally speaking the olive oil is categorised into two distinct categories: refined and unrefined. Obviously, unrefined oils are pure, with no additives and no”refinement” whilst refined oil is specially treated with additional chemicals and processes to remove flaws from the oil, making it more “marketable”.
So lets start top-down, providing some facts about Extra Virgin Oil, Virgin Oil, Simple Oil and Refined Oil.
Things you need to know about Extra Virgin olive oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is pure and is the highest quality olive oil you can buy in the market. Because it is easy to adulterate it, market demands have forced to have specific standards that oil has to meet to receive the label “extra-virgin.”
Flavor-wise, EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) retains more of its true olive taste, and way less acidic than any other other oils. In addition, the natural vitamins and minerals found in olives are more present than any other type of oil.
Extra-virgin olive oil is called pure, because it is bottled as is – straight from the extraction, It is not treated with chemicals, or altered in any way. What really distinguishes EVOO from other oils is its low levels of acid. It contains no more than 1% acidity and has a golden-green color, with a distinct flavor and a light peppery finish – which is totally depending on the variety of the olive tree, the climate conditions and the place it is grown.
You can safely cook with extra-virgin olive oil as it has a lower smoke point than many other oils (meaning it doesn’t burn easily).
EVOO’s Cousin: Virgin Oil
Down the scale in quality is virgin olive oil. It is also made using a similar process as extra-virgin olive oil and is also an unrefined oil – no chemicals are used as well. Virgin olive oil also maintains the purity and taste of the olive, though production standards are not as rigid.
The major point that sets virgin olive oil apart is a higher level of acidity. It has up to 3% acidity, and a slightly less intense flavor than extra-virgin olive oil.
EVOO’s Poor Relative: Simple or Regular Olive Oil
Browsing down the isle with oils you will see bottles with the name “Olive Oil”. No extra virgin, no virgin, nada. This is, simply, a blend of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil. We would stay away from buying such a thing, purely because of the fact that to produce refined oil, the producers use the leftovers of the first extraction (where extra virgin olive oil is produced), the second extraction (where the virgin olive is produced) and they will try to squeeze as much olive oil as possible with a third extraction. What is taken out of this extraction needs to be blended with refined olive oil in order to balance its flavor and taste for consumption.
You will immediately olive oil is a lower-quality oil than extra-virgin or virgin olive oil, with a lighter color, more neutral flavor, and an acidity level between 3-4%. This type of olive oil is an all-purpose cooking oil.
EVOO’s Mean Uncle: Refined Olive oil
You will immediately spot a refined olive oil as “Light”. Yet, light has nothing to do with it – it doesn’t mean that it has less calories! Simply, it is olive oil that has been the byproduct of an extraction which contains the pulp of the previous extraction plus the skins and the stones of the fruit. This oil has an awful taste and smell and needs to be refined with chemicals to remove everything – especially taste and odor. Because chemicals are added, we consider this to be a very bad oil for health. However, the olive industry is using it to blend it with virgin oil and package it in order to market it as “olive oil”
Now that you know the differences, you can select more responsibly towards your health and your family. Our top choice is EVOO, always – and then we use virgin oils for baking or cooking.
What do you do?