What is olive oil and what is so good about it?
“Olive oil” is simply the oil extracted from the fruit of olive trees. It is widely recognised as one of the world’s healthiest oils. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid and this fatty acid is believed to have many beneficial effects and is a healthy choice for cooking. It contains modest amounts of vitamins E and K and also loaded with powerful antioxidants.
What is the difference between Pure Olive Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Olive oils are generally grouped into 2 classifications: refined or unrefined, which is graded based on level of acidity, or free oleic acid. All the olive oils will either be unrefined ‘virgin’ oil, with strong flavour perfect for dressing salads and appetizers such as bruschetta, or refined pure olive oils, with lighter flavour and ideal cooking characteristics.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the highest grade and purest quality olive oil available. It is unadulterated oil from olives using no chemicals or heat to extract oil from the fruit purity and a free fatty acid content no greater than 0.08%.
Pure Olive Oil, classic olive oil, regular olive oil, or more simply “olive oil”, would be those oils of the olive fruit that do not qualify for the virgin designation due to acidity levels and other factors. Any olive oil that does not pass the virgin standards in chemical and organoleptic quality is refined with heat and/or chemicals to remove undesirable odors and flavors. The resulting product is bland, and almost colourless oil that is blended with a small amount of virgin olive oil to add just enough olive oil character.
Pure olive oil usually must contain at least 10% virgin oil and and oleic acid measuring between 3-4%. It is a popular all-purpose cooking oil because its higher smoke point and less apparent flavour than virgin oils.
In summary, extra virgin olive oil is the least processed form of olive oil. Due to this, it retains its natural antioxidants and vitamins, which are often lost during processing. This makes it a more healthful oil than regular olive oil but also makes it a little more expensive.
Can I use Extra Virgin Olive Oil in my cooking?
When using oil for cooking, it is important to keep the heat level in mind. The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil begins to break down, become carcinogenic, and release smoke into the air. In other words, it is when the oil starts to burn. When olive oil is used for cooking, it is best kept to pan frying only. It is definitely not ideal for deep frying because it has too low a smoke point and will overheat.