Types Of Olive Oil: A Comprehensive Guide

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About to fry up some garlic, but don’t know what type of olive oil is best for the job? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! I’ll not only be listing the differences between olive oil types but also reviewing where they are best used and comparing their nutritional content.

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Table of Contents

Aisle full of different types of olive oil

Olive Oil: The Basics

Is There Different Types Of Olive Oil?

I hope I’m not alone in having wondered why there’s a whole section dedicated to olive oil at the grocery store – or questioned if all those oils had any meaningful difference in the first place. If you’ve also faced the same query, then rest assured that there’s a reason for all this categorizing.

There are a handful of different kinds of olive oil – the line can get a little blurry between them, but the main thing that sets them apart is the way that they are made, as well as the ‘grade’ that they are given.

How Many Types Of Olive Oil Are There?

Disregarding things like infused oils, there are five different types of olive oil you can expect to find. These oils are distinguished by their different qualities and the way that they are processed. Regardless of grade, these oils are all incredibly versatile, each having its separate uses.

What Are The Different Types Of Olive Oil?

The different types of oil in order of grade are extra virgin, virgin, pure, refined, and pomace oil. The cause behind their differences in quality and content is due to the type and level of processing that they undergo. In addition to this, there exists another type of olive oil called lampante oil.

Wait, What’s Lampante Olive Oil?

Obtained solely via mechanical processes, the label of ‘lampante oil’ consists of any olive oil with more than 3.3 degrees of acidity. Lampante oil is a byproduct of oil production. In the past, you could use iwas to fuel oil lamps, though in its natural state lampante oil has been mostly rendered obsolete by modern technology.

Not only characterized by its flammable qualities, but this oil also has a distinctive unpleasant smell and taste. As you may have guessed, lampante oil is not suitable for consumption in its unrefined form.

Because lampante oil is largely no longer market-suitable, this type of oil undergoes refinement. This process removes some of the acidity, color, and odor from the final product and is done to make the oil edible. Once processed, the lampante oils grade changes to pomace oil – this is why you can sometimes see lampante oil being called ‘raw pomace oil’. This refined oil can either be sold as kitchen-safe pomace oil or used as a sort of ‘filler’ in other kinds of olive oil.

How Are The Different Types Of Olive Oil Made?

Olive Oil Processing Explained

Mechanical

All oils that are not processed via chemical measures fall under the category of mechanical processing. Both cold extracting and cold pressing are examples of mechanical means of oil extraction.

Chemical

After pressing virgin and extra virgin olive oil, there are still ground olive fruits left in the mill. These remains contain olive oil, although this oil is of a much lower quality than the oil pressed before it. The end product produced from pressing these olives is raw pomace oil – otherwise known as lampante oil. This is where chemical purification comes in; to make this oil edible, it must first undergo solvent processing in chemical factories.

Refined

‘Refined’ is simply a term that refers to any oil that has undergone at least some level of chemical depuration.

Types Of Olive Oil

Similarities And Differences

  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    • Making extra virgin olive oil involves cold pressing olives to extract oil. All extra virgin olive oils must have a free acidity that is lower than or equal to 0.8. Because of its level of purity, extra virgin olive oil has a rich fruity flavor and retains more health benefits. It is the most flavorful kind of olive oil and tends to be the most expensive variety as it is only harvestable by mechanical means. It has a low smoke point of around 374–405°F (190–207°C), restricting it from being used in cooking.
  2. Virgin Olive Oil
    • Virgin olive oil is made the same way except it includes the ‘defective’ oil that didn’t meet the criteria to be graded as extra virgin, but was not of low quality. To grade an olive oil is as virgin, it must be between 0.8 and 2.0 free acidity. This oil can also only be obtained via mechanical processes and is a little bit pricier for it. It has a slightly higher smoke point, meaning it can be used in some low-heat dishes. It is a little less flavorful than extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Pure Olive Oil
    • Pure olive is different from the last two in that it’s a mixture of refined and extra virgin/virgin oil. It’s used for cooking, massage therapies, and moisturizing. It’s particularly well suited to cooking as it has a neutral flavor and a higher smoke point.
  4. Refined Olive Oil
    • Refined olive oil is a moderate quality oil. Again, it is mainly used for cooking, though it has the added benefit of being able to withstand high heat cooking. It has the same fat content as a virgin and pure oil and is often used for mixing with first-extraction oils.
  5. Pomace Olive Oil
    • Pomace olive oil is the lowest quality oil available on the market. It’s essentially what’s left after pressing olive oil – all the last residues, oil, and water – after being refined. Despite being the lowest grade of oil, it’s ideal for all types of cooking. This especially includes high-temperature cooking as pomace oil has the highest smoking point of all olive oils – it has even been championed over vegetable oil for use in deep-frying!
Olive oil frying egg with zucchini

Types Of Olive Oil For Cooking – Which Is Best?

Almost all of the different olive oils are suitable for some degree of cooking – it just depends on what precisely you’re looking to use them for. As may have noticed earlier, the ‘lower’ the quality of olive oil, the better it withstands high temperatures.

This means that extra virgin olive oil should be reserved more for use as bases for dressings. By itself, it works wonderfully as bread dips or to drizzle over already cooked food for a finishing touch. Extra virgin performs best in these situations as it is the most flavorful of the olive oils. The only thing to keep in mind is that it also has the lowest smoke point, and so fares poorly where actual cooking is required.

Virgin olive oil suits the same needs but has the additional benefit of being able to withstand slightly higher temperatures, making it great for low heat cooking – the best time to use this oil is when you want to retain some of that fruity olive taste in your food.

Pure and refined oils are great for frying and sautéing as they both have neutral flavors and higher smoke points – pure oil is my go-to for frying onions and garlic! They’re also a great choice for use in marinades. However, these are not suitable for cooking at an overly high temperature – say for instance, in deep frying. This is where pomace oil comes in.

Pomace oil is a seldom-used, yet excellent alternative for deep frying foods. It has the lowest smoke point whilst retaining the least flavor of all the edible olive oils. The lack of taste makes it a great choice for deep frying, as you can rest assured that the flavor of your food will not change during cooking. Despite being less popular, pomace oil is still regarded as being higher quality than soybean, canola, and corn oil. The only reason that these inferior oils are more widely used is that their extraction is cheaper than pomaces’.


Tips And Tricks!
Olive oil can also be used if you’re making things in molds! If the dough you’re using is too sticky, drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil onto a napkin. Use this napkin to rub some oil onto your molds before putting the dough in. This should prevent it from sticking as much, as long as you are gentle when taking your dough out of the mold. Alternatively, when forming a sticky dough with your hands, you can put a tiny little bit of olive oil there too! The dough won’t stick and you’ll get the added bonus of moisturizing your hands.

What Are The Different Types Of Olive Oil Used For Outside The Kitchen?

Skin Care

Within skincare, olive oil can be used as a moisturizer, a massage oil, or even to strengthen your nails! You can also use it to create the liquid base in a natural exfoliator. Olive oil is excellent in topical application to the skin as it contains a high amount of vitamin E, which makes it incredibly versatile.

Whether you use it then wash it off, or use it as a moisturizer, olive oil suits the majority of skin types. Its especially useful for sensitive, mature, and dry skin – for example, it is excellent in providing moisture and sealing the skin but is also great for sensitive skin as it soothes and provides a protective barrier. If you have sensitive skin, just be sure to patch test olive oil before using. It’s best to use in especially dry areas of skin, such as cracked heels or elbows, or dry patches.

As olive oil is very effective in penetrating the skin, it is an excellent addition to any exfoliation routine. Mix some sea salt, sugar, and ground coffee with some olive oil and massage into your skin for 5-10 minutes before washing off.

Hair Care

Olive oils of any kind are great for hair – they’re rich in antioxidants and contain vitamin A and E, which keeps keratin in the hair and is useful for sealing moisture into the hair shaft. The best thing about it is that even expired olive oil works, so it’s a great way to make the most of your pantry!

Olive oil is most beneficial for those with dry, thick hair. If this sounds like you, apply a little to your ends after washing for a natural leave-in conditioner. Make sure not to go near your roots or use too much as this will cause your hair to get weighed down and look greasy.

Don’t worry if you have thin hair, olive oil can still do some good! The vitamin E present within olive oil is very beneficial for thinning hair. Incorporate olive oil into a monthly deep-conditioning schedule by applying a generous amount to your hair and letting it sit for at least 30 minutes. You can also massage it into your scalp for ten minutes to moisturize and exfoliate. After this, wash it out and proceed with your normal wash-day routine!

Olive oil isn’t just limited to conditioning though! In styling, you can use olive oil to achieve a sleeker look by taming flyaway hairs. As stated earlier, it has also proven to be an amazing sealant – this makes it a great, affordable option to end your curly hair wash-day routine with!

olive oil being used for massaging

Nutritional Values Of Different Kinds Of Olive Oils

Extra Virgin Olive OilVirgin Olive OilPure Olive OilPomace Olive Oil
Calories119.98120110.4110.4
Sodium, NA0 mg75 mg0 mg0 mg
Protien0 g0 g0 g0 g
Fat14 g14 g12.88 g12.88 g
Saturated FA2.00 g2.00 g1.84 g1.84 g
Monounsaturated FA10 gN/A9.20 g9.20 g
Polyunsaturated FA2.00 gN/A1.84 g1.38 g
FA, Total Trans0 g0 g0 gN/A
Carbohydrate0 g0 g0 g0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg0 mg0 mg0 mg
Per 1 tbsp

Which Type Of Olive Oil Is Best For My Needs?

The type of olive oil that’s best for you depends on what you’re looking to achieve. Beauty and skincare? Any olive oil will do, but pomace is likely the most affordable for this sort of use. Cooking? Steer clear of higher grade (extra virgin) oil and use pure or refined oils for sautéing. Always leave the deep frying to pomace oil. Maybe you’re making roasted garlic cloves for a spread and you want to keep that olive flavor – low heat slow-roasting with virgin might be best for you! Whatever it is, I hope that this article has been a fitting guide for your journey in finding just the right olive oil.

FAQs

Is There A Higher Quality Olive Oil Than Extra Virgin?

There’s been an ongoing debate over the topic of ‘first pressed’ oils since forever and a day. This controversy is because many companies have taken advantage of the historical precedent set for first pressed oils. These companies capitalize on this by marketing their products as ‘first pressed’ – although this is banned in some places.
While it’s true that first pressed oils were the best quality you could get your hands on, this limit is now in the past. Technological advancement has rendered the first pressing of oils redundant, as quality is retained throughout the extra virgin batch.

By Anna

Hey, I’m Anna; writer, editor and amateur cook extraordinaire! Food has been my life and my passion for the most of my life – it’s crazy to think I didn’t pursue a career in cooking. I’m obsessed! However, keeping cooking as an obsessive hobby has worked for me – my passion grows as the years pass by – maybe I wouldn’t say the same if it was also my day job! I hope you find cooking inspiration, entertainment and “stop and think interesting tid-bits” throughout my writing – and I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got anything you want to share. Food feeds the soul – so get eating!

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