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Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Why is it the Gold Standard in Cooking?
Extra virgin olive oil EVOO in non-stick pan for cooking, Machika.com

 

Here at Machika.com and in the Machika Kitchen, we love olive oils. Out of all the types of olive oils, the one that stands above the rest as the go-to cooking oil is extra virgin olive oil, also known as EVOO. Not only does it have a fresh taste that is unmistakable, but it also provides you consistent quality you can depend on. You do not have to worry about one company’s extra virgin oil being drastically different to any other because of guidelines. Companies like Basso 1904 produce various types of extra virgin olive oil products like unfiltered and infused oils with flavors like white truffle. While subtle flavors will differ, the overall quality and health benefits do not. For example, certain regions of Italy produce oils using olives specific to the region. These monoculture types may taste different from average extra virgin olive oil, but still follow the same quality guidelines and testing.

In various cuisine and recipes throughout the world, the oil or fats used to cook with play in essential part. Dishes with specific oils take on the flavor of the plant used to make the oil alongside pairing well with certain ingredients. While no one oil is best for every type of cooking, there is one type has become the standard for European dishes and worldwide: extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil is unique because it has become the default premium quality oil for numerous foods. In fact, it is the most common type of vegetable oil! It is so delicious and healthy that many incorporate it as a dietary aide. For example, a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil may have beneficial effects on hair, skin, and digestion. Another additional benefit of relying on olive oil versus things like palm oil is the environmental impact.

History of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

Olive oil has a long history dating back to before 1 AD. That means even before modern documentation of time, during the BCs, people throughout areas of Mediterranean, Middle East, and North Africa were producing olive oil. That is why you will see recipes and dishes across Europe, like paella from Spain, requires EVOO. Some researchers conclude olive trees were domesticated and farmed as early as 4000 BC! Olive trees first made their way to Italy around the time of the collapse of the Greek empire and formation of the Roman empire. Though, the oil was already in Italy because of trading. Many people immigrated from Rome to areas like Italy and brough their culinary and horticultural knowledge with them. Olive oil quickly became a beloved product throughout Italy where now some of the oldest olive trees live.

How Extra Virgin Olive Oil is Made

The process for making olive oil has not changed drastically over the last hundreds of years. The goal is to grind or crush the right age olives to extract their oils. If the olives are too young, they will be slightly more bitter. If the olives are too old, then the oil may taste and smell slightly rancid. Extra virgin is typically tested to avoid oils that suffer from bitter or rancid flavors. From there, producers can sell it as unfiltered EVOO or filter it further. The process for crushing and grinding the olives is known as cold press or cold mechanical extraction. This method has been used for hundreds of years and doesn’t differ much. At the end of the day, the process is simply crushing olives, pressing to extract oils, and then filtering out the water using decantation. It is called cold pressing because heat is not used to extract the oils.

Cold pressing has the additional benefit of not altering the taste, flavor, or texture of the oil. If you cook with olive oil, then you are probably familiar with how the taste changes with heat. It is possible to “burn” the oil. Burning means that the oil was heated too much with no food cooking with it. This can lead to a more muted flavor. Lovers of extra virgin olive oil enjoy the taste more than other oils like canola, so losing that flavor is not preferable.

What Makes Extra Virgin Olive Oil Uniquely Healthy?

extra virgin olive oil testing Machika.com Machika

 

Plenty of oils can be healthy. Coconut oil and avocado oil are both considered rather healthy replacements for things like canola oil or partially hydrogenated oils. They have a high smoke point and muted flavor, so it is not overbearing in dishes where canola or palm oil is used. However, they can be very pricy and still lack the health benefits of olives. Avocados are also not as easy to grow and farm as olives. More time, effort, and resources go into ensure avocados trees produce the fruit. Unlike olives which are widespread throughout Italy, avocados have less of a culinary tradition and no unified organization that handles quality checks and standards.

Olives, on the other hand, have a long-standing history in Italy and Europe that dates back thousands of years! Olive oil is one of the most ancient oils we are familiar with, and as the saying goes “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Italians and cooks throughout Europe took this saying to the next level. Rather than finding some additional way to add to olive oil, it became all about purity and quality. Even for olive oils that are flavored with natural herbs and spices, the base is always great quality extra virgin olive oil. In fact, olive oil is so healthy that you can find it in everything from lotions to shampoos to conditioners. Extra virgin olive oil is healthier and purer that other oils because it is:

  • Minimally processed (no additives, chemicals, or GMO olives)
  • Regulated for Quality
  • High standards
  • Uses only real olives full of beneficial compounds like oleic acid
  • Less saturated fats compared to many other oils

Should I Use Other Oils Besides Olive Oil?

Corn oil, palm oil, peanut oil, avocado oil, etc.; with so many types of oils, it is easy to consider all only slightly different. However, each oil has unique properties. For example, the smoke point of many oils is different, meaning that they are better for cooking different types of food. Peanut oil is often used in dishes that require high temperatures and frying. Though extra virgin olive oil can fry in a pan, it is not a suitable oil for deep frying. The smoke point is too low so it would take on a burning taste. It can also be dangerous to fill your home with carcinogenic smoke. For deep frying, you are better off with high-temp oils like vegetable oil blends and peanut oil.

However, you would never want to use these types of oils for something like condiments. Extra virgin olive oil is so delicious that it can be both a cooking oil and topping for breads, pizza, pastas, and salads! Rather than mixing in some unhealthy ranch dressing, you could use beneficial olive oils instead. While there are certain cases where you will want to avoid extra virgin olive oil, most situations will benefit from using it. Even for high-temp cooking on a pan like searing a steak, many professional chefs like the famous Gordon Ramsey sometimes use extra virgin olive oil.

How Extra Virgin Olive Oil is Regulated

Olive oil tree on farm. Italy, extra virgin olive oil EVOO Machika, Machika.com

 

Unlike pretty much all other types of oil, extra virgin olive oil is heavily regulated to keep the tradition and quality alive and well. Not just anyone can crush and press some olives and slap a “extra virgin” label on the bottle. In different areas of the world, olive oil governing bodies like the North American Olive Oil Association (NOAA) test and certify what is considered authentic extra virgin olive oil.

However, all legitimate olive oil certification groups adhere to the strict guidelines set by the International Olive Council (IOC). Purity and quality are vital to getting certification with tests involving detailed analysis. There is no quick and simple method to determining quality, so testers use a variety of metrics. The olive oil will both go through a chemical analysis and fatty acid content analysis and other tests. To even be considered “extra virgin” oils must not have over a certain amount of unhealthy saturated fats. Europe, North America (only the United States), and Australia are the only 3 continents where olives are legitimately grown and verifiable as extra virgin. This is because governing bodies like the NOAA work with the International Olive Council to determine quality.

Which Olive Oil is The Best?

Traditional extra virgin olive oils are seen in many kitchens and restaurants through the world. However, it is not the only type around. You may also have seen unfiltered oils on store shelves or advertisements. So, what is the big deal? Is unfiltered extra virgin olive oil any better than filtered? From a nutritional standpoint, not particularly. Unfiltered means that the oil does not go through filtering processes to remove any leftover particulates of olives. Think about how it is when you go shopping for juice. There may be some regular smooth texture orange juice next to the ones with pulp. Regular extra virgin olive oil removes that pulp.

Unfiltered also has leftover water from the olives mixed in with the oil. You may notice a bottle of unfiltered olive oil separates. A quick shake will mix the oils and water back together. Lovers of unfiltered extra virgin olive oil argue a few key things. First, unfiltered oil has a stronger and purer olive taste. Manufacturers may filter some flavors out alongside the water and particulates. However, the aroma can be more muted. After all, there will be more water and the oil will be slightly less concentrated. In the end, unfiltered versus regular olive oil is more about flavor than quality. Both, extra virgin filtered olive oil and unfiltered, will be top quality products that follow stringent guidelines.

Lesser-Known Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil has many benefits that are lesser known. Not only is it great for ingestion, but it could also be great for hair and skin. For example, you could use extra virgin olive oil as part of your conditioner. Olives may help your hair and scalp better retain moisture. If you are dealing with dry hair, then olive oil may be of help! Next time you go shopping, look around and you may find cosmetics and hair or skin products with olive oil already inside! While olives are known to reduce inflammation inside the stomach, there are also used in topical remedies!

What you may not know is that olives have anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and antibacterial properties! Whether it is your scalp, your skin, or your stomach- extra virgin olive oil could play a role in improving your health! If you are looking for the best olive oils around, then Basso 1904 has the selection for you. Get yourself a 4-bottle infused extra virgin olive oil set or a bottle of authentic Italian olive oil today! Remember to check out some of our other blogs and topics at Machika.com today to learn new recipes and tips and tricks around the kitchen. You can also shop for kitchenware, cookware like polished steel paella pans, and kitchen accessories.

Writer at Machika.com / Machika, Maria Perez short author bio blurb.

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