Understanding the types of olive oil

Understanding the types of olive oil | holafoodie.com
Olive oil is nothing else than olive juice. Yet not all of them are born equal. So what are the main different types of olive oil and how can you use them in your kitchen?

We’ll start with the bad news. Attempting to categorize a product that offers so many variants can be risky business. Similarly to wine, olive oil seems to be a very simple product. But it’s not. There are multiple varieties of olives, various levels of acidity and quality, different methods of oil extraction and then of course, there is the taste and the colour. Depending on what we’re looking at, the categorization could be done in a completely different way. So how can we choose the right type of olive oil for our cooking?

The good news is that some few years ago, the European Union came up with a standard categorization for commercial types of olive oils which is based on the purity and quality of the product. And whilst the criteria they chose is not as clear for consumers as it could be, at least the product labels give us an idea of what to pick from the supermarket shelves.

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

The absolute king of olive oils. This unrefined product is the highest quality olive oil you can find in the market. It is obtained only from the best olives. Those ones which haven’t received any damage during the harvesting and have maintained all their properties intact.

The acidity level should never be higher than 0.8% and both the taste and the aroma are intense and flawless. And since this is just pure olive juice, there are no preservatives and no additives in its composition.

How can you use it?

Extra virgin olive oil is the perfect choice for recipes and preparations when the oil is eaten raw. Use it for vinaigrettes, sauces, vegetables, salads and generally, for any instance when you just need to drizzle some olive oil to finish your recipe.

Having said this, I must admit that I use extra virgin olive oil for pretty much everything other than deep frying!

Click here to buy Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

Similarly to the extra virgin, this is also a high quality unrefined olive oil with no preservatives and no additives. The difference lies on the permitted acidity level, which in this case can reach 2%.

How can you use it?

You can use virgin olive oil for the same stuff you use extra virgin olive oil. All you should know is that needless to say, virgin olive oil has an inferior quality.

OLIVE OIL

Also known as ‘Pure Olive Oil’, this is produced by mixing both ‘refined’ and virgin olive oil. ‘Refined’ refers to those oils which have been produced with the help of chemical processes.

This is a lower quality oil with an acidity level of up to 1%. The taste is smoother and less intense than virgin olive oils.

How can you use it?

Olive oil is an appropriate choice to be used at high temperatures, such as deep frying, grills, barbecues or oven baking.

POMACE OLIVE OIL

This oil is made from pomace, which is the solid substance remaining after the oil is extracted from the olives. Pomace still contains a small quantity of olive oil that is extracted, then refined and then mixed with virgin olive oil. The result is a low quality oil with a maximum acidity level of a 1%.

How can you use it?

Of course you can use pomace oil for exactly the same stuff as you use virgin or even extra virgin olive oil. But I’ll be honest here. I never use pomace olive oil in my kitchen. And unless you can’t afford any other olive oil, you probably shouldn’t either. The reason? Despite often being sold next to superior olive oils, pomace oil lacks of both the quality and the taste of the better olive oils.

So what type of olive oil should I use in my cooking?

As we’ve just seen, it very much depends on what you are cooking. Although as a general rule, you should always go for the highest quality olive oil you can afford to buy.

Then remember, extra virgin olive oil if you want to dress a salad or just drizzle some oil as a finishing touch for your dishes. And olive oil if you are going to deep-fry or cook with any other technique where the oil will get exposed to very high temperatures. Simple to remember, isn’t it? Now go for it and start cooking!

Cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Check out our great selection of Spanish recipes using extra virgin olive oil!