Olive Oil: How to select which one to buy
Olive oil..considered by many as the most exotic, gourmet and sought for oil.
So many types of olive oil in the market, which one to buy?
Till a few years back, olive oil in India was used only for body massage or beauty purposes only. It had an elitist image. But with the inception of Western dishes like Pizza, pasta etc., olive oil is frequently used in most of the urban Indian kitchens. However, as Indian food is heavy on spices, the aroma of olive oil gets lost and loses its advantage which it has with western dishes.
Benefits of Olive oil are innumerable but here we will be focussing only on ‘Olive Oil in Kitchen’.
You go to a departmental store and you will be thoroughly confused seeing the varieties of olive oil shelved there. Recently when I went for my groceries shopping, I went to the olive oil counter. There, the salesman had very lucrative offers on different types of olive oil. That time all I knew was that EVOO was the best oil. The salesman had excellent offers on Pure Olive oil and on Olive Pomace oil. And he tried to explain me the benefits also of these oils. Highly confused but determined not to be wooed by the salesman, I and my husband decided to buy EVOO only.
A few days later, while having a discussion with my sister in law, Archana Agarwal, things became clear to a great extent. She often cooks international cuisine and has tremendous knowledge about ingredients like olive oil, pasta, Italian herbs etc. She explained in very simple terms about different types of olive oil. It was an eye-opener for me. I found it really interesting and upgraded myself further by reading and researching on the topic. I felt like sharing the knowledge gathered with you all too.
I have tried to gather information from various sites and some books as well and explain it in simple and interesting manner. Hope you will like it and use it in your day to day usage of olive oil. Those who are already experts in this info, I would request them to share their feedback. It will be really interactive that way.
Normally oils are extracted from the seeds or dried fruits of plants, but do you know olive oil is pressed from the pulp of ripe olives?
Different regions of Italy produce distinctively different olive oils. Some are pungent and peppery (like Tuscan oil), some are lighter and sweeter (Ligurian oil) and some are powerful and nutty.
Also known as ‘Liquid Gold’…Olive oil rules not only the kitchen but equally or even more in cosmetic as well health industry.
- It is a wonderful source of omega-3 and antioxidants like polyphenols, vitamins E & K, chlorophyll and carotenoids. Antioxidants are key to strengthening the immune system and protecting the body from the damaging effects of free-radical molecules.
- It is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids which reduces total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol levels in the bloodstream while raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol levels
- Olive oil contains anti-inflammatory agents, like oleocanthal, that act as a natural ibuprofen-like substance.
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz) of Olive Oil
Energy 3,701 kJ (885 kcal)
Carbohydrates 0 g
Fat 100 g
saturated 14 g
monounsaturated 73 g
polyunsaturated 11 g
omega-3 fat <1.5 g
omega-6 fat 3.5-21 g
Protein 0 g
Vitamin E 14 mg (93%)
Vitamin K 62 μg (59%)
Olive oil, the queen of oils, comes in many varieties. Most popular being Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), Virgin Olive Oil, Pure Olive Oil and Olive Pomace Oil. Type of oil depends on how the oil was obtained from oil. Depending on the type of olive oil, their usage is also different.
Different olive oils complement different foods and use. Olive oil can be used for sautéing, browning, stir-frying, deep frying, as an ingredient in marinades and sauces such as mayonnaise, pesto, or romesco, and as a condiment, drizzled over various dishes.
TYPES OF OLIVE OILS
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (EVOO)
- EVOO is the highest grade of olive oil with perfect flavour and aroma. It is pure and without any additives. This is the reason it is priced so highly.
- EVOO is obtained from the first cold pressing of the olive fruit within 24 hours of harvesting, without using any chemicals or excessive heat. You will relate immediately if I say in simple terms that it is exactly what you mean by ‘Kachchi Ghani Mustard Oil’ (cold pressed mustard oil).
- No two EVOO are same. They differ in taste, colour, and appearance.
- To be called EVOO, the oil must have an acidity level, expressed as Oleic acid, below 0.8%. Also, it has to meet about 20+ other chemical requirements. And above all, it should taste good.
- It is heavy and viscous compared to other grades of olive oil.
- You reap the full benefits of its flavour, aroma and other health benefits when left unheated or say, used raw.
- Though EVOO has a high smoking point (410ºF or 210ºC), that is it can tolerate high heat still it is not used for frying as heating the oil for frying destroys much of its flavour and aroma. And when flavour and aroma are destroyed then why use such an expensive oil for frying?
- Though it is said that think of EVOO as you would think of wine, the maxim, ‘Older the wine, better it is’ does not apply to olive oil. The more recently the oil was made, the better it is.
- Usage in cooking: Salad Dressings, Meat dressings & marinations, Chutneys or Dips (Mayonnaise) etc.; use it as a condiment.
VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (VOO)
VOO is pressed in the same way as EVOO. The only difference is in the acidity level. The acidity level of VOO is above 0.8% but less than 2% and it has a less refined flavour.
- Thus, cold pressed olive oil with acidity level below 0.8% is EVOO and above 0.8% is VOO. The difference in acidity levels is due to weather conditions and other natural factors.
- Usage in Cooking: It can be used as a condiment but is also suitable for cooking, Stir-frying, Saute-ing, Baking, etc.
REFINED OLIVE OIL (ROO)
- When VOO is refined through a high heat process that removes a lot of colour and aroma from it, the oil is called Refined olive oil.
- Thus, ROO is light only in colour and taste and not in fat.
- It has very little vitamin E content.
PURE OLIVE OIL (POO) OR OLIVE OIL
- When ROO is mixed with EVOO or VOO, it is called Pure olive oil or simply olive oil. It is mixed in order to impart some flavour, colour, and aroma to it.
- So please, do not think that Pure Olive Oil means the purest/original/authentic. It is just a particular quality grade.
- Pure olive oil actually has the same acidity level as virgin olive oil.
- It is low in nutrients as compared to virgin olive oil and is, therefore, less expensive.
- It cannot be used for dressings and is better suited for heavy-duty, high-heat cooking as it does not have a strong flavour and is also not expensive.
- Usage in cooking: All purpose oil; can be used for most of the preparation methods.
OLIVE POMACE OIL (OPO)
- Pomace oil is the lowest grade of olive oil. This oil is low in antioxidants. It is the most debatable category of olive oil. I have listed here both pros and cons of this oil.
- It is made from the residue (called Pomace) left after producing EVOO or VOO. This residue has very little oil, say 5 to 8% which is so less that it cannot be squeezed out. The residue is like a wet sponge still having water in it no matter how much you have wrung it out.
- To save this oil, a solvent called Hexane is added to Pomace to extract the last possible oil from olives.Once the oil is extracted, the solvent is removed.
- Dictionary meaning of Pomace is the solid remains of grapes, olives or other fruit after pressing for juice or oil. It contains the skin, pulp, seeds and stems of the fruit.
- Pomace oil though comes from olives only but still cannot be termed as olive oil as it is extracted using chemical solvents. Also, the initial heating process produces carcinogenic substances called PAH’s which are not completely removed even by refining. Then why is Pomace oil produced? Well, pomace heaps cannot be composted down and have the potential to contaminate surface and groundwater. So, processing pomace has environmental advantages.
- Also, OPO is the main cooking grade oil variety. It is light with neutral taste and flavour. When fried in OPO, oil hardly penetrates the food leaving it light and digestible. It can be reused 3 to 4 times as long as it is filtered carefully after each use through a proper gauze or muslin or paper filter.
- Usage in cooking: All purpose oil; mostly used for deep frying.
Storage of Olive Oil
- Light, heat and air are enemies of olive oil. When exposed to these, Olive oil loses its valuable nutrients and fruit flavours and hence becomes rancid.
- When buying extra virgin olive oil, purchase oils packaged in opaque or tinted glass. Storing olive oil in clear bottles, to attract buyers, is detrimental to its quality.
- Or, try pouring olive oil into a clean dark coloured bottle equipped with a spout.
- Do not store olive oil in plastic containers, as the oil can leach harmful substances out of the plastic.
your olive oil in some cool place.
- Avoid keeping your olive oil container next to the stove, oven; on top of the refrigerator or on the window sill, as invariably it will be exposed to heat there.
- Keep a small container of olive oil within easy reach, and the rest of your stock somewhere in a closed cabinet.
- Don’t Store Olive Oil Too Long
- Consume Olive oil within two years of pressing as after this period the flavours deteriorate and the nutrients degrade. Every month that olive oil ages, the acidity levels increase, a result of oxidization. Extra virgin olive oils have the potential to last longer than other grades because they have a lower acidity.
- Pick a bottle from the back of the shelf where it has been shielded from harsh lights.
- Always check the expiry date.
To conclude, we can say that:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Use raw, in salads, mayonnaise etc and as a condiment.
Virgin Olive Oil: For stir-frying, sauteing, baking.
Pure Olive Oil: All purpose oil.
Olive-Pomace Oil: Only for deep frying. But if apt only for frying then is it worthwhile to buy such an expensive oil?
Choose your olive oil carefully depending on what you want to use it for. Don’t just get carried away by the prices and promotional offers.
As far as I am concerned, I buy only EVOO and use it only for salads.
My heartfelt acknowledgements to the following book and links for the valuable inputs,
http://www.centrafoods.com/blog/pomace-olive-oil-vs.-olive-oil (very good ppt here, worth seeing)
If you have liked this post, then please leave a comment, with your suggestions, if any. Your feedback fuels my enthusiasm to post more good content.
Also, join me on my Facebook page.
Let’s move together…