Shopping for Olive Oil

When you go to buy olive oil at the grocery store you face a dizzying array of choices – often more than a dozen different bottles or cans. Extra virgin olive oil. Pure Olive Oil. Light Olive Oil. First Cold Press. What does it all mean?

Here’s a primer.

Extra virgin olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is the top grade. True extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) can’t have any flavor “defects” – which can be caused of defects within the olives themselves or in the way the oil is stored. The oil must taste fruity and meet rigid standards set by the International Olive Oil Council.

Virgin: Virgin olive oil is the next step down from extra virgin. It may contain slight flavor defects and has a higher acidity level than extra virgin oil. The higher acidity level may also affect taste.

Pure Olive Oil/Olive Oil: Pure olive oil is oil has been refined to remove any defects. Typically, it gets blended with a little extra virgin olive oil in order to add flavor, since the refining process strips it of most of it’s flavor.

Light Olive Oil: “Light Olive Oil” is nearly the same thing as pure olive oil.  It’s made from refined olive oil that is “light in favor” due to the refining process. It is often marketed in a way that leads consumers to believe it has fewer calories of less fat than extra virgin olive oil, but that’s not true!

Pomace Olive Oil: This is obtained by mixing solvents into the olive pulp that is left over as a byproduct of the milling process. Heat is then used to extract additional oil from the pulp. Pomace oil has been found to retain traces of the chemical process.

First Cold Press: While this isn’t a type of olive oil, it’s an aspect that many people look for on labels. For an olive oil to be extra virgin, it cannot be extracted through heat, so first cold pressed olive oil is extracted with a hydraulic press at a temperature of less than 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit. All extra virgin olive oil is by definition first cold pressed.

Bon appétit,

California Olive Ranch

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