What exactly does extra virgin mean in cooking oils?

There is quite a bit of confusion in the public eye about cooking oils, especially when it comes to the many different types on offer.

We have gone over before about the various oils made from different seeds/fruits, but within each oil there are also a range of options.

It’s not uncommon to see regular, virgin, and extra virgin variations of the same oil, so what’s the difference?

Olive oils

The three main types of oil

To keep things simple, we will talk about the three main types of oil on the shelf at your local store, and we’ll use olive oil for our examples (more on that later).

Ordinary olive oil

Olive oil is the oil obtained solely from the fruit of the olive tree, and contains no other oils. The extraction method of regular olive oil can be chemical, using high-heat equipment. This increases the acidity count of the oil, and also can remove natural nutrients and minerals contained in the olive.

Virgin olive oil

Virgin Olive Oil is of a higher quality than regular olive oil, and has an acidity of less than 2%. Chemicals may still be used in the process, but less often and less concentrated, allowing the oil to retain some of its natural goodness.

Extra virgin olive oil

To be classed as extra virgin olive oil, the oil must contain no more than 0.8% acidity. To get this level, no chemicals are used in the extraction method, and instead only machinery is used to squeeze the oil from the olive. The temperature is also kept low, ensuring the essential nutrients and minerals are not boiled away.

The problem facing the industry

The reason we used olive oil as an example, is because it is the only oil with international set standards. There are currently no official standards for any other cooking oils.

Unfortunately, this means that the more unscrupulous among us can bottle cheap, nasty oils and slap a sticker on them claiming to be extra virgin.

It is a huge problem in the industry, particularly in the United States, where it is estimated that 69% of store bought oil which is labelled as extra virgin isn’t up to standard.

Fake olive oil

How to spot a fake oil

If you want to avoid poor quality oil, there are several things you can do to spot the fakes.

Certified

When buying olive oil, look for the certification of the International Olive Council. This way you know the oil has met industry standards.

Price

Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. High-quality oil costs more to produce, and that is reflected on the supermarket shelves. Top quality oils taste better, last longer, and are healthier for you, and cost a bit more – but definitely worth the extra few bucks.

Container

Authentic extra virgin cooking oil will never come in clear or plastic bottles. Sunlight breaks down the chemical composition of the oil, and so legitimate manufacturers will bottle their product in dark glass, usually green or black.

Olivado extra virgin olive oil

Olivado’s extra virgin oils

When it comes to Olivado oils, there’s no need to worry about the quality.

Our extra virgin olive oil is of the highest possible standard, with less than 0.8% acidity, and being cold-pressed through mechanical means, it meets every standard set out by the International Olive Council.

With over 360mg/kg of phenolic compounds when bottled, our organic extra virgin olive oil exceeds the requirements of the EU EFSA health claim: “Daily consumption of 5mg of olive oil polyphenols contributes to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative damage”, with 5.4mg in a 15ml serving.

And while there is no official standard, our other oils, such as our extra virgin avocado oil, use the term to indicate purely mechanical production and superior quality, again, cold-pressed to retain the goodness of the avocado fruit.

If you would like to know more about our range of high-quality, extra virgin oils, please feel free to contact us today.

Our friendly and knowledgeable staff will be happy to answer any questions you may have.