Difference Between Virgin Olive Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil is an essential ingredient in the Mediterranean diet and its nutritional benefits are numerous. It is a source of important antioxidants, such as vitamin E. It provides the body with essential fatty acids, mainly oleic acid, an excellent protector of cardiovascular health. The same applies to its high levels of healthy cholesterol.
In the supermarket we can find a wide variety of olive oils from different types of olives. There is a grading system with specific terms referring to their quality and their extraction process. These can be a little confusing if you don't know how olive oil is prepared, so oneHOWTO dispels any doubts by providing the difference between virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil.
What are the differences between virgin and extra virgin olive oil?
To understand the difference between virgin and extra virgin olive oil, it is necessary to the basics. The process of making different types of olive oil begins the moment the olive is harvested and doesn't finish until it is reaches the consumer. Each type of oil made is defined by its quality, something which depends on various factors.
Knowing how extra virgin olive oil is made is the key to knowing the difference between this and other oils. When the olive is at its optimum growth development, it is harvested and placed in the press. The first filtering is carried out to remove remains of leaves or branches. The next step is the extraction of the oil, which is carried out exclusively by mechanical means, generally exerting by pressure on the olives.
From here, the tasting process begins. This will be determined by the organoleptic properties (flavor, aroma, texture) of each oil and its degree of acidity. Both concepts will be those that establish the quality of the oil and its final rating: virgin or extra virgin. This is the difference according to these criteria:
- Extra virgin olive oil: at the time of tasting, an extra virgin olive oil must obtain an average score equal to 0, something that indicates its maximum quality. In an extra virgin olive oil, no flaw will be seen in the tasting. Also, to obtain this category, its acidity level cannot exceed 0.8%.
- Virgin olive oil: when a score between 0 and 2.5 is obtained by the tasting panel, it is considered a virgin olive oil (not extra). In addition, its acidity is between 0.8 and 2%. If it exceeds those two percentage points and the score of 2.5 could not be considered virgin olive oil and is not suitable for human consumption.
In any case, both are excellent quality oils with many benefits for our body. This doesn't just mean nutritionally, as you can see in our article on the benefits of olive oil on our skin.
How to know if an extra virgin olive oil is good
While olive oil will be classified after tasting, there are certain factors which determine whether the oil is good. Since there are so many different brands of olive oil on the market, we can use different elements to best determine which will be the best quality. Look at the labelling of the product and you can best decide if the oil is of good quality.
The following information on the bottle of olive oil will be able to help you choose a quality oil:
- Place of origin: having a ‘Designation of Origin’ is always a guarantee. This means they have met certain standards required to have this on the labelling.
- Harvest and packaging date: although the oil does not expire if properly preserved, its characteristics (aroma, flavor, etc.) may undergo minor alterations over time. For this reason, it is advisable to opt for an oil with a packaging date closest to the current date. Check that the container is totally airtight (to avoid oxidation) and opaque (to protect the oil from the action of light).
- Degree of acidity as we have indicated, the maximum degree of acidity of extra virgin olive oil cannot exceed 0.8%. If it has an even lower acidity, its quality will be excellent.
- Type of olive: hojiblanca, picual, arbequina, etc. are the varieties of olives commonly used in the production of extra virgin olive oil. Any of them gives magnificent results and a top quality oil. Choosing one or the other is a matter of taste, but, when tasting the oil, it should always maintain an intense flavor with a fruity touch, essential in an extra virgin olive oil.
Using olive oil in cooking isn't just a way to cook food, but it can be a great way to preserve it. Find out more in our article on how to preserve hot peppers in oil.
Other types of olive oil
Olive oil is obtained from the pressing of fresh olives, but it can also be extracted from the remains of the olive fruit itself (bones and skins) to make different types of olive oils. You can usually find the following types of olive oil:
- Pure olive oil: it is the result of mixing, in certain proportions, a virgin olive oil with other oils, such as pomace or virgin.
- Lampante olive oil: it is the oil with acidity greater than 2% and is not used for human consumption. Instead, it is used for industrial purposes. Its name comes from its previously common usage in lamps.
- Refined olive oil: it is low-quality olive oil that is subjected to processes that enhance its aroma and flavor in an artificial way (refined).
- Olive pomace oil: comes from pressing the pulp of olives after its first pressing. This means it will be inferior quality and there is some concern over potentially carcinogenic qualities.
To learn more about olive products, take a look at our related article on whether Kalamata olives are healthy.
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