To many the debate between extra virgin olive oil vs olive oil is a passionate one and not a simple either-or answer. To understand the complexities of the oil you first have to understand the way in which it is produced combined with its resulting oleic acid level – the better the oil, the lower the proportion of free fatty acids.
Extra Virgin – less than 1% oleic acid
This is the premier oil which is extracted by pressing the olives without heat or chemicals. The olive oil in UK is the natural juice from the olive and retains all the flavor, aroma and nutrients when extracted on what is called the first pressing
The flavor can range from subtle and mellow to well-flavored and pungent which can be something of an acquired taste.
- Salad dressings
- Replacement for butter
- Used as a condiment
Virgin – less than 2% oleic acid
This is produced from the second pressing and while retaining some beneficial nutrients, the first pressing will have extracted the greater share and because of this, the flavor is milder and less robust.
- Browning and sauteing food
- Replacement for margarine and butter in cake recipes
- Beauty products
Pure – less than 2% oleic acid
This oil will have received some processing involving filtering and refining. The more the oil is handled the fewer nutrients it contains. This type of oil is a blend of refined and virgin oils. During the refining process, where it has been chemically treated, the oil loses most of its vitamin E content and flavor. The producer will add virgin olive oil to the refined oil to increase the vitamin content and improve the flavor and aroma.