If you do a lot of cooking, chances are you have a bottle of olive oil in your pantry. If you watch Food Network, odds are it’s extra virgin. You’ve heard that extra virgin olive oil is the best, but you may not know why chefs consider it better than virgin or pure olive oils. For those who are complete novices to the world of olive oil, the sheer number of olive oil types may completely baffle you. We’re going to explain the differences, so you know why chefs prefer extra virgin olive oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For an olive oil to be certified extra virgin, it must meet four requirements. The first one is that no chemicals or hot water can be applied to the olives; the oil must be produced solely by mechanical extraction. The olive oil must be cold-pressed, which means no heat can be applied at any time during the production process. The last two requirements are that the olive oil must have an oleic acidity level of less than one percent and a perfect taste.
While what qualifies as a perfect taste is subjective, olive oil connoisseurs treat olive oil like a fine wine because, like wine, not all extra virgin olive oils taste the same. When determining a perfect tasting virgin olive oil, connoisseurs look for the oils nuances, such as a mild flavor and fruitiness.
Virgin Olive Oil
You don’t find virgin olive oil in the supermarket very often. It’s produced using the same methods as extra virgin olive oil. However, it’s oleic acid level can be up to 3.3 percent. Virgin olive oil also has a stronger flavor than extra virgin.
Pure Olive Oil
If you pick up a bottle of olive oil that doesn’t have a qualifier, you’re probably holding pure olive oil. Don’t let the name fool you. This isn’t purer or better than extra virgin olive oil. Pure olive oil is a blend of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil. It doesn’t taste as good as extra virgin olive oil, so it’s not recommended for salad dressings or bread dipping. It also has fewer nutrients than the previously mentioned oils. For those looking for a heart healthy oil, you should stick to extra virgin olive oil.
There are other olive oil grades, but you most likely don’t want to consume them. Once you get below pure olive oil, they require processing before they can be considered fit for human consumption.