What is the Difference Between Virgin Olive Oil & Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

When it comes to cooking and food preparation, you may have always wondered what the differences are between various oils, most notably virgin and extra virgin olive oil. This is because extra virgin olive oil is used for salad dressing and uncooked food applications, whereas olive oil and virgin olive oil alone are used for actually cooking the food, but why?

What does extra virgin olive oil have that a simple virgin olive oil doesn’t, and vice-a-versa? In this article, we’ll be talking about what extra virgin olive oil is, what virgin olive oil is and when they can be used in cooking and food preparation and presentation. So let’s dive into the differences between virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil:

What is virgin olive oil?

Virgin olive oil isn’t considered to be as superior as extra virgin olive oil when it comes to quality. Virgin olive oil is made in much the same way as extra virgin olive oil, however virgin olive oil isn’t as pure as its counterpart. Where it undergoes some removal of impurities, it’s nowhere near as refined as basic olive oil (we will discuss the difference between refined and unrefined olive oil later on).

This means that virgin olive oil remains, for the most part, pure. This means that you’ll be able to taste more of the olives that are used to make the olive as well as enjoy its golden colour and rich aroma. When it comes to finding a bottle of virgin olive oil, you may have to go a little further afield than your local supermarket.

This is also where it differs somewhat from extra virgin olive oil. Virgin olive oil can be found in farm shops and specialist food stores, such as Italian supermarkets or dedicated food markets. It’s rare that you’ll find a bottle of virgin olive oil on the shelf at the local supermarket.

What is extra virgin olive oil?

Now you have more of a grasp on virgin olive oil, you’re well-equipped to start understanding the ins and outs of extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is completely unrefined, meaning that it’s not been heated up to remove any components that come with its natural state. This means that extra virgin olive oil will often have a bolder taste, a distinct colour and a very rich aroma when compared to virgin olive oil.

Being unrefined, it also retains much of its nutritional value, making it an incredibly healthy type of cooking oil. If you’re looking for an oil to cook with, then extra virgin olive oil should be avoided, mainly because its flavour and aroma will be lost along the way.

It’s always best to use extra virgin olive oil in dips or as salad dressings, but we’ll talk more about when to use which oil in a moment. Unlike virgin olive oil, extra virgin olive oil is very easy to find in your local supermarket, although it’s also available from specialist food markets and farm shops.

Refined vs. unrefined olive oil: what does this mean?

It’s easy to distinguish between extra virgin and virgin olive oil, but the thing that might be a little more tricky to understand is the difference between refined and unrefined oil. Essentially, unrefined oil remains in its purest state. Refined oil, on the other hand, is heated and filtered in order to remove impurities and visual flaws.

So which process does extra virgin and virgin olive oil go through? Extra virgin olive oil undergoes very little, if any, refinement. This is to ensure bold flavours and its rich, golden colour. Olive oil, however, is refined. As such, it will lose some of its colour, aroma and flavour as well as some of the antioxidants that might be present and any anti-inflammatory properties it might have.

Which type of olive oil should you use when?

Olive oil can be used for many different things, but there are some things you’d use extra virgin olive oil for that you wouldn’t use virgin olive oil for. For example, olive oil alone can be used for general cooking, baking and frying, whereas extra virgin olive oil, given its one-of-a-kind taste, colour and aroma, can be used for other things, such as:

  • Dips
  • Dressings
  • Uncooked applications
  • A finishing touch on plated foods
  • As a garnish on plated foods

Despite being used in, mainly, uncooked dishes, extra virgin olive oil can be used for general cooking purposes also, such as frying, baking, roasting and so on. However, people generally don’t use extra virgin olive oil for this as it’s more costly and its flavour and aroma will be wasted when used simply for frying, for instance. If you need a particularly rich cooking oil, however, such as to bake bread, then extra virgin cooking oil is something that you should opt for over other types of cooking oil.

Cater Oils is pleased to offer customers waste cooking oil collection services as well as supply fresh cooking oil as and when needed. Upon collection of your used cooking oil, we will offer you some payment or we will provide you with a credit note against a fresh supply of cooking oil – whichever is best for you. With a team of dedicated professionals at the helm of our operations, we are always on hand to collect used cooking oil from both commercial and domestic settings. You’ll also have absolute peace of mind when it comes to its disposal, because we will take the used cooking oil we collect and turn it into biodiesel for use throughout the community. If you would like further information about our waste cooking oil collection services, then get in touch with us here at Cater Oils – we’re always happy to hear from you.

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