Crack open a cookbook and you will find countless recipes calling for olive oil. But when you head to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients, picking out an olive oil can easily become overwhelming. There are a ton of options and if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to feel lost. Luckily, we here at O-Live & Co. are here to simplify things for you.
In the simplest terms, “olive oil” is oil that’s been obtained from the fruit of olive trees. However, there are several varieties of olive oil that differentiate in the process used to extract the oil, as well as their additives and the oil’s level of oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid. The quality of olive oil is determined by its level of acidity as the amount of oleic acid in olive oil indicates how much fat has broken down into fatty acids.
What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Now that you understand the basics of olive oil, it’s easier to understand the differences in extra virgin olive oil. This type of olive oil is unrefined, meaning it’s not treated with chemicals or altered by temperature, and the highest quality olive oil you can buy. Because of the process used to make extra virgin olive oil, it retains a delicious taste and has lower oleic acid levels; to qualify as “extra virgin,” the oil must have no more than 0.8% oleic acid. Extra virgin olive oil also maintains all the healthy compounds known as Polyphenols: These compounds have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-atherogenic, anti-thrombotic, anti-mutagenic and hypoglycemic characteristics. Hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, and oleuropein are the phenolic compounds that are mainly responsible for antioxidant activity of olive oil.
Olive oils that are certified as extra virgin have not been exposed to any chemicals or heat treatment, meaning the oil is cold-extracted from the olives; the fruit is ground into a paste and then centrifuged to extract the oil. This process is the main reason for the difference in quality between extra virgin and regular olive oil. Because extra virgin olive oils are meant to highlight the freshest flavors of the olives, farmers take extra care in picking the best olives for their extra virgin oils.
So What’s the Difference?
All of the qualities mentioned above affect the quality of the olive oil and how it cooks. In contrast to extra virgin olive oils, refined oils don’t have the antioxidants that make extra virgin oil healthier. Refined oils also have a more neutral flavor and lighter color. Some regular olive oils are better for stove-top cooking and baking as they have a higher smoke point. Extra virgin olive oil is usually recommended for dressing, dips, and garnishes. O-Live & Co. has an extraordinarily low acidity level of 0.2% compared to the industry average of 0.8%, which makes its smoke point much higher than average extra virgin olive oils and a great component to cooking. You can sear your steak with O-Live & Co. without a worry.
The great thing is that you can use extra virgin oil for all your cooking and you won’t be able to taste the subtleties in its flavor in sauteed or baked dishes. Here at O-Live & Co., we are happy to offer only the finest in extra virgin olive oils that range from everyday use to more organic oils to robust-flavored oils. To find out more about our process, mission, and products, visit our website.