Olive Oil Is All About the Process
Generally speaking,"olive oil" is simply the petroleum that's obtained from the fruit of trees. In itself that sounds pretty straightforward and straightforward.
But there are different varieties of olive oil that are set apart not from the type of olive oil that's used, but the process used to extract the oil, as well as from the additives, and the oil's level of free lactic acid.
How Olive Oil Is Graded
Looking at this particular brand of olive oil and extra-virgin olive oil side by side, you can realize that the extra-virgin olive oil has a noticeably darker color, while the regular olive oil has a lighter, brighter hue.
This color differential, however, varies from brand to brand, and it is deceptive. You cannot use color to reliably inform two grades of oil apart. Olive oils can vary drastically in taste and quality, and color is simply 1 factor and not the distinguishing one.
Olive oil is graded by its degree of acidityfree lactic acid. The amount of free lactic acid in olive oil indicates the degree to which fat has broken down to fatty acids.
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 flaws from the oil, making it more sellable.
Refined oils have small or no olive aroma, flavour, or colour (what they have gets there via mixing in few percent of an extra-virgin oil). They also have no bitterness.
In contrast to unrefined extra-virgin olive oil, refined oils "lack the important antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that make extra-virgin oil so special.
What You Need to Know 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." Because of the way extra-virgin olive oil is made, it retains more authentic olive taste, and has a lower degree of oleic acid than other olive oil varieties. It also contains more of the natural vitamins and minerals found in olives.
Extra-virgin olive oil is considered an unrefined oil since it's not treated with chemicals or altered by temperature. What sets it apart is the very low degree of oleic acid and the absence of sensory flaws. It contains no longer than 1% linoleic acid and typically has a golden-green color, using a distinct flavor and a light peppery finish.
While you can cook with extra-virgin olive oil, it does have a lower smoke point than many other oils, which means it burns at a lower temperature. Save the pricey good quality stuff for dipping bread, dressing, dips, cold dishes, and use the more affordable stuff for cooking and baking.
What You Want to Know 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 procedure as extra-virgin olive oil and is also an unrefined oil, meaning chemicals or heat are not utilized to extract oil from the fruit. Virgin olive oil also maintains the purity and taste of the olive, although production standards are not as stiff.
According to the standards of the International Olive Council, virgin olive oil has a slightly higher level of lactic acid. It also has a somewhat less intense flavor than extra-virgin olive oil.
Virgin oil is rarely found, if , however, in grocery shops; usually your choice is going to be between extra-virgin, regular, and light olive oils.
What You Need to Know About Pure 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 mix of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil (heat and/or chemicals are used in the practice of extracting oil and removing flaws from the fruit).
Pure olive oil is a lower-quality oil than extra-virgin or virgin olive oil, using a lighter color, more neutral flavor, and oleic acid measuring between 3-4%. This sort of olive oil is an all-purpose cooking oil.
What About Light Olive Oil?
This is the form 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. It can be used for baking, sautéing, grilling, and frying.
Can They Really Be Substituted for Each Other?
The simple answer is yes. If a recipe calls for olive oil, as many do, you can use extra-virgin or regular olive oil. It is your decision, and largely based on personal preference. Both extra-virgin and regular olive oil can be utilised in baking and cooking, but do remember their differing smoke points.
However, as a rule of thumb, I'd like to stick with using the more flavorful extra-virgin olive oil for dipping bread, in dressings, dips, and dishes that will not be cooked, and for finishing, so that the flavor can glow.