How to choose the best olive oil

May 26, 2016 by

How to choose the best olive oil

Food 2 min read

Find out the difference between the different types of olive oils and their benefits

Not all olive oils are created equal. Here’s what you need to know to choose the best for you and your loved ones.

Virgin, extra virgin, light… there are so many different olive oils available on the supermarket shelves. It can be easy to just grab a bottle and go, but the truth is that different types of olive oils are suited to different uses.

Here’s a look at what the labels are actually telling you.

Extra virgin/virgin olive oil

The best olive oils are all about the process. Virgin and extra virgin olive oils are created by extracting the oil from the olives without the use of chemicals, solvents or excessive heat. The process results in a strong natural flavour and is often why extra virgin is considered the best quality.

You can cook and fry with extra virgin olive oil in a pan, but because it has such a lovely taste, it is also largely enjoyed as a salad dressing or as part of an antipasto platter with some fresh bread for dipping.

Virgin vs extra virgin: Olives can be pressed more than once to extract the oil. Extra virgin tells you that the oil has come from the olive’s first time being ‘squeezed’ and is considered the olive oil in its purest form.

Light olive oil

Different olives produce different flavours and the term ‘light’ refers to a less full-bodied olive oil. To achieve a lighter flavoured oil, a refining process is used – this removes some of the aroma, character and also some of the antioxidants present in extra virgin olive oil.

The subtle taste of light olive oil means it can be a substitute for butter in baking recipes. It is also good for frying if you don’t want the food to taste too much of the oil itself.

Don’t mistake the term ‘light’ for meaning less calories. Olive oils are pretty much the same when it comes to calorie count.

Choose best olive oil single

Cold pressed olive oil

Extracting olive oil with heat enables more oil to be obtained, but this method does not necessarily produce the best quality oil. The cold pressed method refers to the process of extracting the oil by crushing the olives without any added heat during the process, or at a temperature below 27°C.

The advantage of using this technique of extraction is that the oil retains its good fats and antioxidants, as well as a more robust flavour.

Cold pressed olive oil, like extra virgin olive oil, is recommended for salad dressings and for dipping due to its stronger impact on the palate.

Pure/refined olive oil

You can’t blame people for becoming confused! The term ‘pure’ refers to a mix of virgin and refined olive oil – refined oil having been treated with heat or chemicals to extract more oil from the olives. Refined oil is lower quality with a plainer flavour, but also tends to be cheaper.

Pure/refined olive oil has a higher ‘smoking’ point than extra virgin olive oil, making it more suitable for the frying pan.

Olive oil buying tips

  • Many people believe olive oil has no expiry date. This is not the case – oil generally lasts for a maximum of two years, so check when it was packaged. You don’t want it going rancid in the cupboard.
  • Look for a bottle of olive oil made with olives from just one source rather than all over the place.
  • Choose a tinted bottle – your oil will keep better when it is protected from the light.
  • If you can, try before you buy! You will be able to choose something delicious to accompany your Mediterranean platter or fresh salad.

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How to choose the best olive oil

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