Olive oil – we all have a bottle in our pantry. But can you cook with it? Is first cold press the best olive oil you can get? Let’s break down some myths of this kitchen staple!
Myth 1: You can’t cook with olive oil
This misconception stems from olive oil smoking or breaking down at low temperatures. Regarding the smoke point: olive oil only has a low smoke point if it has a high quantity of free fatty acids (FFAs). High levels of FFAs – which have been linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes - indicate poor quality or old olive oil. All the olive oil we carry has less than 0.2% free fatty acid content - meaning it won’t smoke until at least 400oF.
As far as withstanding heat – all types of oil break down when heat is applied. Inexpensive oils – such as canola oil –form toxic byproducts like aldehydes when heated. But when olive oil is heated, it’s some of the antioxidants will break down instead, ‘sacrificing’ themselves and prevent toxic chemicals from being produced by the oil. Look for a high polyphenol (antioxidant) content when purchasing olive oil for high temperature cooking.
Myth 2: First cold press is the best olive oil
Status: Partially True
First cold pressing is a requirement to produce extra virgin olive oil, but it is somewhat of a misnomer. Cold pressing refers only to any olive oil pressed below 80oF and without the addition of chemicals. As for second press - that has become a thing of the past. Historically, olives were quite literally pressed with huge stones, with the first press extracting the best oil, and subsequent presses extracting lower quality oil. The olive press has been replaced by a malaxer (horizontal mixer) and centrifuge which pulverize olives, and extract almost all of the oil from them. This method is so efficient, only 5% of oil gets left behind on this ‘first press’. This leftover oil is must be chemically extracted, and is referred to as ‘pomace oil’. Pomace oil cannot be sold or labeled as ‘olive oil’ – nor is it good to consume. Generally speaking, all commercial olive oil will come from the first press. But be advised – even poor quality olive oil can come from the first cold press.
Myth 3: Most high quality olive oil comes from Italy
Status: Mostly False
According to a study done by the International Olive Council, Spain produces 40% of the world’s olive oil- or about the same amount as Italy and Greece combined. So where does the best oil come from? It’s a complicated equation. Great olive oil is a lot like wine – it depends on the cultivar of olive you’re getting, what kind of conditions it grew in, and how the pressing was handled. Even oils from the same grove will vary year to year. Instead of looking for a single origin, try different varieties of oil. Much like different wine grapes produce different wines, different types of olives will also produce different flavor profiles of oil. Currently, 6 different types of extra virgin olive oil are available to taste at our shop.
Have more questions about olive oil, or are interested in learning more? Send us an email or stop by the shop!