- » Is it true that extra virgin olive oil can't be used for cooking - it's best used raw?
- » Are all extra virgin olive oils the same?
- » Does olive oil improve with age?
- » Are greener oils better than golden oils?
- » Do older trees make better oil?
- » Are first pressed olive oils better?
- » Is cold pressed extra virgin olive oil better than normal extra virgin olive oil?
- » Are European olive oils better?
- » Because olive oil is a fat, is it bad for you?
- » Are light and extra light olive oil lower in calories and healthier than extra virgin?
- » Why are some extra virgin olive oils slightly cloudy? Is this harmful?
No. Extra virgin olive oil can be used for cooking as long as it doesnt get heated beyond 183°Celsius. It smokes and loses its positive attributes beyond that temperature. But that' still quite hot. It can actually be used for most cooking applications other than those involving extreme heat. It can be baked, fried, etc - as long as it doesn't smoke. In fact it actually adds flavour and aroma in most applications.
No, they're not. The variety of olives used, the time of harvest, growing conditions and many other factors add up to make one real extra virgin olive oil quite different from another. Not all oils that say they are extra virgin olive oil really are. Our laws are not as stringent as those in Europe. Real extra virgin olive oil's exhibit fresh fruity characters such as apple, grass, tomato and herbs. They have a fresh feel in the mouth and are more like juice than oil in their lightness. So there really is a category of olive oil that could be called "premium extra virgin olive oil". These oils vary one from another and usually provide a rich flavour experience.
No, olive oil, like all other edible fats, starts deteriorating as soon as it is made. Unlike edible oils that are the product of an industrial process extra virgin olive oil is naturally stable. In fact it is many times more stable than canola in its raw form. Industrial oils such as canola have lots of antioxidants added to stop them from rotting quickly. Olive oil has natural antioxidants but still doesn't improve with age. The challenge is to preserve its character for as long as possible. The best way to do that is to keep the oil away from heat, light and air. An even better way is to use it quickly!
In the trade we ignore colour as it isn't really relevant to oil quality. It is true that some oils are greener when harvested earlier in the season as they tend to have a higher concentration of chlorophyll and later harvested oil can be more golden because they have more carotene. But generally colour does not really matter with olive oil. For the most experienced users there may be a colour preference but this does not necessarily translate into taste difference.
No, we are finding in Australia that it can take growers a few seasons to get to grips with how best to manage each variety of olive tree. But once they get it right the oil is good from a very early age. Many groves produce award-winning oils in their first production season. It has much more to do with grove management practices than anything else.
There really is only one pressing for olive oil. Its grade is determined by the presence or absence of defects during that pressing. In Europe growers take the solids that are left after the pressing and put it through another process that produces what is called pomace oil. This cannot legally be called olive oil.
All extra virgin olive oil is cold pressed. In Australia, this is the standard way of making extra virgin olive oil and if the processor adds enough heat to change the composition of the oil it can't be called extra virgin anyway. Typically some heat is added to allow the oil to separate from the flesh of the fruit but this is minimal and it is a universal practice. The terms "cold pressed", "first pressed", "first run", etc are all marketing terms introduced to create a point of difference. These days most producers use these terms because they are expected to have them on the bottle, but they don't really have any true meaning.
Although European oils have been the benchmark in the past, things are beginning to change. Australia has adopted a radical approach to growing olive trees that make our groves look like very large vineyards. The trees are pruned to look like Christmas trees so that new machines can harvest the fruit quickly. This is one of the main determinants of olive oil quality. The new breed of Australian olive oil is at least as good as the best from Europe. Australia is set up for quality not quantity and our modest levels of production are geared towards high quality yet efficient production.
Olive oil is now being promoted by the medical community as being fundamental to good health. EVOO has a very high level of the good fats, monounsaturated fats. These have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. In addition real extra virgin olive oil is high in healthy antioxidants and essential vitamins. The fresher and better quality the extra virgin olive oil, the more health-giving properties it has.
Light and extra light olive oils are the product of an industrial process that involves taking olive oil that was made with too many faults to use, stripping out the positive and negative attributes and then adding back a bit of extra virgin olive oil to give a little colour and taste. The light and extra light descriptors actually refer to the light colour and taste. Real extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest edible fats and its colour, aroma and flavour come from minor compounds that include healthy anti oxidants. These are largely stripped out of the oil when refined into light and extra light.
The cloudiness in extra virgin olive oil is a natural part of the olive oil. It is not harmful or unpleasant to consume. When olives are crushed and made into oil, the oil is always cloudy. Many fruit juices (apple, pear, melon) are the same. When fruit juices are first made, they are very cloudy and are regularly filtered to make them clear. The cloudiness and sediment are a very natural and healthy part of Australian olive oil and different varieties and blends of olive oil have different amounts of sediment. The quantity of sediment in the redisland oil varies with the time of the year it is blended as well as the varieties used. It is important for our oils to be as flavoursome and aromatic as possible. Therefore we do not heavily filter the oil as it strips out large volumes of flavour and aroma compounds as well as removing important nutritional benefits. You will find that there are often small amounts of sediment and cloudiness which settle at the bottom of Australian olive oil bottles and casks. This type of natural settling is a much gentler and preferred means of making the oil clearer. The Europeans tend to heavily filter their oils so there is no cloudiness or sediment (and often less flavour and freshness).