Even those of us who consider ourselves regular olive oil users and aficionados might struggle to say what the differences are between an extra virgin olive oil and a virgin olive oil. The quality? The origin? The type of olive used to make it? So let's clear up those doubts...
While it is true that both are authentic olive products, the main difference lies in the degree of acidity and the score they are awarded in a sensory analysis. An extra virgin olive oil has a unique taste and aroma, and is free from any flaws. As the article at http://www.sabormediterraneo.com/aceites/calidades.htm explains, "if the oil has even a hint of any aroma or flavour categorized as defects (winey, fusty, rancid, musty...) it should be labelled for sale as virgin olive oil. "
In order for an extra virgin olive oil to be considered as such, it must fulfil two conditions. The first is a chemical requirement, namely the percentage of acidity. The second is organoleptic, in other words, relating to flavour and aroma, which is checked by tasting. To many who are unfamiliar with the sector, it is often surprising that an oil must go through a tasting to qualify as extra virgin. In fact, however, this requirement applies to the classification of all virgin olive oils; since olive oil is the juice of a fruit, much of its quality lies in its aromas and flavours, and for the time being, there are no laboratory instruments that can measure them as well as the human nose can.
For an olive oil to be considered extra virgin, it must meet the following requirements:
-The acidity must be equal to or less than 0.8º
-In the tasting panel, the median defect must be zero, and the median score for fruitiness must be greater than zero.
In addition to these two requirements, the legislation sets out a number of requisites relating to chemical properties, most of which are designed to detect fakes and blends with other oils, rather than to classify virgin olive oils.
There are still people who consider it a waste of money to use extra virgin olive oil for frying or roasting. The experts do not agree, however. In fact, extra virgin olive oil is highly recommended for cooking thanks to its high quality. As stated on http://www.doestepa.es "All oils lose certain properties when they are heated, they oxidize, but it is extra virgin olive oil that best withstands frying temperatures. It can reach temperatures of up to 180ºC without being altered or degraded – far higher than any other oil found on the market." What is more, cooking with olive oil offers important health as well as culinary benefits: the food fries faster at high temperatures compared to other types of oil, and so loses fewer nutrients; and extra virgin olive oil brings out the flavour of the food, greatly improving the taste experience.
Any other tips? The following advice is sure to help you in the kitchen:
- According to experts, you shouldn’t mix extra virgin olive oil with other fats, since they do not withstand high temperatures as well as EVOO and break down more quickly.
- The oil can be reused as long as it hasn’t been burnt or altered in any way. First strain out any food remains from the previous use.
- Don’t let the oil reach the point where it starts smoking; this is a critical moment and indicates that the oil is burning.
- Add the food for frying a bit at a time, especially if it’s frozen. It’s important to add it to the oil little by little.