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The Different Types Of Olive Oil

Understanding Spices

Olive oil is one of the most popular cooking oils used today. It’s the liquid fat which comes from olives, a fruit of a tree native to the Mediterranean. Olive oil is one of the healthiest oils available and is rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals and fatty acids.

There are many kinds of olive oil, and it can get confusing when browsing the supermarket shelves. The different types depend on the extraction method used, its purity and its flavour profiling. Here is our guide to the different types of olive oil and how each one should be used.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil (or EVOO) is the most flavourful and purest of all the oils. It’s the highest grade of olive oil and is widely considered the healthiest form. It’s extracted through cold-press methods which means the olives are never exposed to high heat or chemicals. This also means that it maintains its bioactive compounds responsible for its health benefits.

As EVOOl has never been exposed to high heat, it’s best used in dishes like salads or drizzled over flatbreads, rather than used to cook with.

Virgin Olive Oil

This oil is pretty similar to EVOO. It’s extracted without chemicals or heat and contains many of the same health benefits as EVOO. However, it’s less pure with a slightly higher acidity level. Virgin olive oil has a milder taste and works well in dressings, dips and light frying or sautéing.

Light or Extra Light Olive Oil

Light olive oil means that it’s lighter in colour, not in calorie content. Light and extra light olive oils are a combination of refined olive oil and 5%-10% virgin olive oil. The refined olive oil  component is treated with heat and chemicals to remove flavour defects.

Light and extra light olive oil both have a high smoke point, making them a good option for high heat cooking. You can use these oils for frying, sauteing, roasting, searing, grilling and baking. As these oils don’t have much flavour on their own, they’re not suitable as a dipping or finishing oil.

Types of olive oil processes

When shopping for olive oil, you may notice labels with the following terms:

  • Refined: after pressing, refined oils undergo a second refining process which often includes heat and chemicals. They can also include other vegetable oils, resulting in a lower quality oil.
  • Unrefined: these oils are produced without heat or chemicals during the extraction process, meaning they’re higher in quality. 
  • Cold-pressed: this is the least refined and most natural process of producing olive oil. These are higher in quality and price.

What to consider when cooking with olive oil

When choosing which oil to use, consider these two factors:

  • Flavour: a lighter, more neutral oil is best for cooking; a flavoursome, richer oil is best for sauces and dishes where you can taste the oil.
  • Smoke point: choose light olive oil for frying — save the EVOO for dishes that don’t require a high heat.

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