Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the Most Pure Form of Olive Oil and Should have the Most Fruity and/or Grassy Notes.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Resources > Food > Cooking Oils > Olive Oils > Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Are you a Smart Kitchen™ Chef?

Try it FREE or take a TOUR to explore Smart Kitchen!
+ -

 

The best olive oils are extracted from ripe, or partially ripe, olives from Italy, France, Spain, Greece and California. All quality oils are extracted from the olives under pressure, without the addition of water or chemicals. Quality Oil is Rich in Aroma and Taste and is judged by both its richness and its acidic level. 

The first pressing of raw olives, after separating and filtering, on a hydraulic or manual Olive Press without the use of heat, makes the finest quality Olive Oil. This first pressing is referred to on labels as “First Cold Pressed” or “Extra Virgin Olive Oil.” The terms are equivalent and are sometimes even used together for extra effect: "First Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil."

Olives that are harvested early, rather than when the olives are overripe (and easier to shake down from the trees with machinery) are used to produce the highest quality oil with a desirable bouquet of  slightly unripe fruit or vegetables.

The result of a first cold press is oil richest in aroma, flavor, color and nutritional value.  It is also the most expensive oil because of the quality of the olives and because of the labor required to produce it. 

Purchasing

Real Extra Virgin Olive Oil is essentially a squeezed fruit juice. It is seasonal, perishable, best in the first few weeks.

Absent our own Olive orchard and Olive Press, an excellent bottled Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a reasonable goal. When buying Extra Virgin Olive Oil/First Cold Pressed Olive Oil look for:

1. Young Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Try to purchase Extra Virgin Olive Oil that is less than a year old. The best and easiest way to tell if if the product has a "Harvest Date" on the package. The second best way is if the product has a "Best Buy Date." The Best Buy Date is usually 2 years from harvest. Do your math before paying the price to know how old that oil is.  

2. Origin. The bottle should have a label that identifies the country of origin and the olive mill where the Extra Virgin Olive Oil was pressed. "Packed in Italy" or "Bottled in Italy" are not guarantees that the product was grown or pressed in Italy or that it even comes from Italian Olives. It only means the Olive Oil was poured into a bottle in Italy.

3. Acidity. The best, freshest Extra Virgin Olive Oils have the lowest levels of Acid. While a 1% acidity level is the  highest permissible level for an Unrefined Olive Oil, lower acidity levels denote a superior Extra Virgin Olive Oil. If your purchase has an acid level of 0.8% or better you are doing pretty well 

4. Bottle Color. Darker colored bottles offer more protection from the sun and help prevent the oil from going bad. 

5. Oil Color. We have a built in bias towards greener Olive Oils but good Olive Oils come in all colors. If you can picture the color coming from a real olive (vivid green to gold, to straw colored) the oil is fine. Even official Olive Oil tasters succumb to the bias though. They use colored glasses to rule out automatic favoritism. 

Storage

Oxygen, heat, light and time cause oils to oxidize and become Rancid. Oils should be tightly capped and kept, if not in the refrigerator, at least in a cool dark place like a pantry. Dark colored bottles can also protect oils from the sun.

Olive oil, with its monounsaturated fats is less likely to go Rancid, though it is subject to spoilage with excessive light exposure.

If you do refrigerate your Olive oil it may become semi-solid in the cold. Just let it sit for 15-20 minutes at room temperature and it will return to liquid form.

Unrefined olive oils are less stable and will only keep 4 or 5 months. So buy them in small quantities and use them.  

Culinary Uses

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is useful with Medium Heat and has a Smoke Point of 374°F (190°C), a Melt Point of 32°F (0°C), a Flash Point of 600°F (315°C) and a Fire Point of 700°F (371°C).

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is used for MarinadesSalad OilsMargarinesBaking, Pan FryingSautéing, and Stir Frying.

Pairings

AlmondsPecansHerbsRosemaryThymeOreganoSageSaltPepperSpicesMeatsPoultryChickenBeef, Pork, Fish, Eggs, Vegetables, GarlicMustard GreensPotatoesOnionsOlivesTomatoesSoupsSaucesDressingsVinegarsBeans, Cheese, Pasta, Bread

Substitutes

While nothing compares to a superior, First Cold Pressed, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, in a pinch Virgin Olive Oil can be substituted for Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The Virgin Olive Oil won't have the complexity or the notes of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil but it will get the job done.

Nutrition

All Olive Oils have essentially the same fat breakdown because they all come from Olives.

Olive Oil is a Monounsaturated oil. It is 14% Saturated Fat, 73% Monounsaturated Fat, and 11% Polyunsaturated Fat.

If you are comparing Oils, switching to Olive Oil can help with cholesterol but it won't have as many Antioxidants because its Polyunsaturated Fat is so low. 

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

No

Low Calorie

No