What Is EVOO & How Does It Compare to Other Olive Oil Grades

Close-up of woman's hands holding a clear bottle of olive oil

What Is EVOO?

EVOO—it’s an acronym everyone has certainly heard of at one point or another, even if they weren’t quite sure what it meant. Is EVOO some sort of food or haircare product? Maybe it’s skincare? What is EVOO?

EVOO is short for extra virgin olive oil, which is considered the purest grade of olive oil on the market. The taste of EVOO is favored the world over, especially in Greece and Italy. It may be more expensive than other types of olive oil for its high quality.

Curious to learn more about EVOO, such as how it’s made or what it can be used for? This article answers all the questions one would have about EVOO.

How Does EVOO Compare to Other Olive Oil Grades?

As mentioned in the intro, EVOO is an acronym that stands for extra virgin olive oil. To understand what extra virgin means, it’s time to talk more about the various categories olive oil is organized into.

We wrote about these classes or grades in another article, so be sure to check that out if you missed it. This will be the shortened version.

The grades of olive oil are:

  • Olive pomace oil: The lowest grade of olive oil is olive pomace oil. This is produced using whatever waste gets left behind from milling olives. This is often the flesh, skin, and pits of lots of different olives lumped into one oil.
  • Lampante olive oil: You never want to eat lampante olive oil in its original form, nor should you be able to, as it’s not suitable for people to consume. It must be refined and made more flavorful before it can be sold on grocery store shelves.
  • Light olive oil: Next on the totem pole is light olive oil, named such because of its light hue. Not only that, but it doesn’t have a lot of flavor, either. It contains just as much fat and as many calories as other olive oils, though, so don’t be fooled.
  • Pure olive oil: Standard olive oil is referred to as pure olive oil. It’s gone through refinement, so it’s a grade or so above lampante olive oil. It may contain some extra virgin olive oil to add to its flavor profile, but it’s not EVOO.
  • Virgin olive oil: Above pure olive oil is virgin olive oil. While this is a good grade, it’s not as high as extra virgin. The odor and flavor of virgin olive oil are pretty good but not the best. It also has defects, although only olive oil professionals can typically detect these.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: Now we get to EVOO, the highest grade of olive oil.

Since EVOO is the best of the best when it comes to olive oil, it has strict regulations. For one, it must be free of every defect; otherwise, the olive oil would likely be classed as virgin olive oil.

The US Department of Agriculture or USDA, California Olive Oil Council or COOC, and the International Olive Council or IOC set the regulations for EVOO, as do other similar organizations.

EVOO products will be tested for peroxide values and free fatty acids. Also, professional olive oil testers will consume the oil before it’s sold to check for flaws and defects. They’ll also critique the flavor profile and freshness.

When buying EVOO, because of all the testing it must pass, you can be certain you’re getting the best, healthiest, and most flavorful olive oil on the market.

How Is EVOO Made?

Now that you understand a little more about EVOO and its grade on the olive oil scale, you may wonder, how is this exemplary olive oil product made? That’s a great question and one we want to talk about more now.

When producing EVOO, a team of professionals will choose ripe olives from a tree. These olives get grounded down, sometimes through a slurry with millstones. By moving the slurry so it’s at 80 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly under, less friction occurs as the olives get mashed down. Sometimes, this olive oil is labeled as cold press because of the temperature.

The olives, at this point, are mashed into a paste-like state. The paste then gets passed through hemp mats, often many of these attached. These mats allow all the olive parts to move to a hydraulic press. The press will push down on the mats. In doing so, the oil is extracted from the olive’s pulp and then transported to a container.

Alternatively, a centrifuge can do the same job without any hemp mats and hydraulic presses. This still removes the oil from the olive pulp, but it’s just another way of doing it.

The quality of the oil derived from this extraction process will determine what the olive oil is labeled as. To classify as EVOO, the oil should be unfiltered and as pure as possible. It’s then bottled in a translucent green container that will prevent UV rays from affecting the quality or flavor.

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The best EVOO will have a pungent taste that’s almost peppery. You should feel this in your throat and mouth, especially when you consume olive oil. Besides its pungency, bitterness is to be expected as well. This is almost acrid but, again, is a sign of high-quality olive oil. The acidity should feel nice, especially when it’s on your tongue.

There are fruity notes to behold as well. Depending on the freshness of the olives used in the production process, the fruitiness of the EVOO will change. Green fruit notes taste more pungent, bitter, herbaceous, and grassy.

The flavors of ripe fruit are floral, buttery, aromatic, and mild. It may seem strange that your olive oil would taste fruity until you realize that, yes, technically, olives are fruit. Then it all makes more sense.

Remember how it was mentioned that olive oil must undergo rigorous testing to be classified and sold as EVOO? Here are some of the stiff requirements. If the olive oil doesn’t meet all these qualifications, then it isn’t EVOO:

  • The olive oil production process must never exceed 80 degrees.
  • The olives used for EVOO can only undergo filtration, centrifugation, decantation, and washing, no other processes.
  • Heat or solvents cannot be added to the olives during the production process.
  • No other fruits can be included with the EVOO.
  • The EVOO’s UV absorbency should be 0.01 or less if it’s Delta K, 2.5 if it’s K232, or 0.22 if it’s K270.
  • There must not be more than 20 milliequivalents per kilogram of peroxides in the olive oil.
  • Free fatty acidity cannot be more than 0.8 percent.

Why Buy EVOO?

Still not sold on the idea of EVOO? It’s time to outline the many benefits of EVOO that make it worth having in everyone’s pantry.

It Doesn’t Get Better Than This

When it comes to the flavor, purity, and quality of olive oil, if you want the best, it’s got to be extra virgin. For a very long time now, there hasn’t existed a higher grade of olive oil than EVOO.

If you choose anything less, know that the flavor won’t be as good, nor will the quality. Your olive oil will always have some defects. Indeed, the average consumer can’t taste these, so it won’t really matter as much, but the defects are still there.

It Has Lots of Minerals and Vitamins

By consuming moderate amounts of EVOO, you’re getting a surprising amount of vitamins and minerals. A single tablespoon, which is the equivalent of 13.5 grams, has seven percent of your daily value of vitamin K. You also get up to 13 percent of your daily value of vitamin E.

The monounsaturated fat content of that tablespoon is 73 percent, with oleic acid predominant. Monounsaturated fat is a healthy type of fat that’s also naturally found in nuts and avocados. Consuming monounsaturated fats as part of a nutritious diet could lead to less body inflammation, a lowered risk of getting heart disease, and weight loss.

Of course, olive oil does contain saturated fats, even EVOO. As a dietary fat, saturated fat is not healthy for you. Oils tend to have a good amount of saturated fat, as does red meat, cheese, and butter. In that tablespoon serving of EVOO, there’s 14 percent saturated fat. That’s why it’s recommended not to overdo it.

EVOO Contains Lots of Antioxidants

EVOO is rife with natural antioxidants, including oleuropein and oleocanthal. Oleuropein is a type of polyphenolic compound sourced from an olive tree’s leaves. It could help lower your blood pressure.

Oleocanthal, as a type of phenylethanoid, causes the above-mentioned feeling of burning you may get when consuming EVOO. It has anti inflammatory properties and can even operate much like ibuprofen in some people.

Potentially Lessens the Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s

According to a 2013 study in The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging, it’s possible that by eating a diet that has olive oil and other Mediterranean staples, one could boost the functioning of their brain. This may lower the chance of developing cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s. However, this study was done in a controlled environment, so it’s hard to say for certain.

When mice were fed olive oil for another study, they had fewer beta-amyloid plaques in their brain neurons. These plaques become tangles of protein that may contribute to Alzheimer’s.

Could Play a Role in Preventing Cancer Development

Another area in which EVOO and olive oil may help is in cancer prevention. In 2000, the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention published a study that mentioned how the Mediterranean diet could lower a person’s cancer risk.

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While the link between olive oil and avoiding cancer isn’t super clear, such a link appears to exist. That’s reason enough to start incorporating EVOO into your diet.

How could EVOO prevent cancer? It’s all about the olive oil’s antioxidant content. This can combat the free radicals that may increase a person’s cancer risk, especially if they have a lot of oxidative damage.

Might Ward off Cardiovascular Disease

As already stated, monounsaturated fat consumption could safeguard from heart disease. Digging a little further into that, the Mediterranean diet is again purported to be healthier for one’s heart.

In fact, The New England Journal of Medicine went so far as to say that one could lower their risk of death, stroke, and heart attack through this diet by a whopping 30 percent.

EVOO can certainly be good for the body and overall health. A person’s blood pressure may drop, they may not have as many blood clots, and blood vessels could be healthier. It could also mean less bad cholesterol and inflammation. Those factors overall do lead to a better heart and a better you.

Can You Cook With EVOO?

EVOO food oil can be used for baking, dressing, poaching, sautéing, frying, and cooking favorite dishes. It also makes a phenomenal dressing on salads or even chicken.

EVOO food oil does have a somewhat lower smoke point than standard olive oil. The latter is 390 to 468 degrees, while EVOO’s smoke point is anywhere from 350 to 410 degrees. The smoke point just refers to a fat or oil’s burning point, or when the most smoke can be seen.

How Do You Ensure Your Olive Oil Is EVOO?

Manufacturers know how many people have hopped on the EVOO bandwagon. That’s why, unfortunately, sometimes you’ll find fake EVOO on the market. It’s labeled as being extra virgin, and it sure looks like the real deal, but as for its quality and taste? It’s definitely not EVOO.

Here are some methods to try to confirm whether the EVOO is fake or as legit as it gets:

  • Taste it: Sometimes, the easiest way to spot a fake is to try the olive oil for yourself. If it’s got the flavor profile we’ve talked about throughout this article, then it could be true EVOO. If something tastes off, then there is a reason to be suspicious.
  • Check the price: Very expensive EVOO is a red flag, as is olive oil that’s too cheap. Don’t buy either. The former may be a ripoff, and the latter is almost definitely not EVOO.
  • Spot the seal: Real EVOO will have a seal from the COOC or a related organization. No seal, no legit EVOO.
  • Find the name of the mill or estate: The name of the mill or estate where the EVOO was produced should be clearly visible. If this is the case, it is more likely that it is authentic EVOO. There should also be a harvest date instead of a bottled or best buy date or, in addition to these, which is described in more detail below.

What Are Some Other Uses for EVOO?

If you still have some EVOO left over and dinnertime is over, don’t despair. You can use EVOO and most other olive oil for non-edible purposes as well. These include the following:

  • Stop that door from squeaking: Squeaky doors? Not in your house with some EVOO. Use it as a lubricant on dried hinges.
  • As a wooden furniture cleaner: You don’t need to keep buying pricy furniture cleaner when EVOO will do wonders for your wooden surfaces. They’ll look shinier than ever!
  • To restore stainless steel: If your stainless steel appliances look a little worse for wear, they’ll shine like new with some olive oil. You can also use this on pans, pots, and other cookware.
  • To open a stubborn zipper: Has the zipper on your hoodie or coat been stuck for as long as you can remember? Use a small amount of EVOO (on a cotton swab, not directly onto the zipper) to unstick it. Do watch out for staining the shirt or coat!
  • Keep your cat healthy: Very little olive oil, no more than 1/4th a teaspoon, offered to your cat in their food from time to time can help them avoid uncomfortable hairballs.
  • Remove chewing gum from hair: If you have kids, you’ll probably deal with the ol’ chewing gum in hair situation sooner than later. You don’t have to cut your child’s hair when you can apply EVOO first. Wait 10 minutes, and the gum should come right out.

The Shelf Life of EVOO

The shelf life of EVOO will vary depending on a number of factors, like how it is stored and its quality. EVOO typically has a shorter shelf life compared to other oil grades. This is because of its higher content of unsaturated fats. These are much more susceptible to oxidation.

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Here is a brief comparison of the shelf life of extra virgin olive oil with other common grades.

  • EVOO: Best to use this oil within 12 to 18 months. Store it in a cool, dry place to prevent oxidation. Proper storage is essential for maintaining its quality.
  • Virgin Olive Oil: A good quality virgin olive oil is less robust than EVOO when it comes to its flavor and aroma. It has a similar shelf life to EVOO, around 12 to 18 months.
  • Pure Olive Oil: These grades are more refined and have a longer shelf life. Pure olive oil can last up to two years or longer when properly stored. However, it lacks the health benefits and robust flavor that comes with EVOO.
  • Light Olive Oil: Light olive oil is often made from a blend of olive oil and a small amount of virgin or extra virgin olive oil. It has a shelf life of up to two years or more.
  • Vegetable Oils: These oils, including canola oil, corn oil, and soybean oil, have a high smoke point and longer shelf life. When stored properly, they can last one to two years.

Olive Oil Labeling

Fresh olives sit alongside a paper label on wooden surface

The labeling on olive oil provides a ton of important information regarding the type, quality, and origin of the oil. To make more informed choices when purchasing olive oil, there are key things to keep in mind.

Grade and Origin

The label will list the grade of the oil, which reflects the oil’s quality and processing. It also specifies the origin of the olives that were used to make the oil. When the origin is known, there are more insights into the flavors and characteristics of the oil.

Acidity Level and Harvest Date

Next is the acidity level. Extra virgin and virgin olive oil labels should indicate the acidity level. Extra virgin olive oil, again, has an acidity level of 0.8% or less. The harvest date on the label shows which oil was made with fresh olives and possibly has a better flavor and health benefits more deserving of human consumption.

Certifications

The label should also indicate if there are any certifications, such as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) or Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). This tells the story of what region the oil is from and if it has met all of the highest quality standards.

Nutritional Information

The label should also provide nutritional details, including the amount of monounsaturated fats, polyphenols, and other nutrients.

Understanding even just a few aspects of olive oil labeling can help someone select the right oil for cooking and culinary preferences. A high quality olive oil can enhance the flavor of a dish and provide various health benefits.

Olive Virgin Oil: FAQ

Does EVOO go bad?

While EVOO is beloved for its flavor and quality, it can still expire. When you open your bottle of EVOO for the first time, you should keep it for another 18 months after that, maybe 24 months. Stash it in a dry, dark place such as a cabinet or cupboard to maintain quality.

Can you fry foods with EVOO?

As you may recall from earlier in this article, EVOO has a lower smoke point than olive oil. It’s awesome for baking and stir-frying, but deep frying? Not so much. It’s recommended your stovetop temperature not exceed 350 degrees when cooking with EVOO, and you need to get to at least 375 degrees for deep frying. Use another oil instead.

What Is Regular Olive Oil?

The term regular olive oil often refers to a specific type of olive oil that is less expensive and more commonly available than extra virgin olive oil. The grade of olive oil is a blend of refined oil and virgin or extra virgin olive oil. Regular olive oil is used for sauteing, frying, and baking because of its milder flavor and higher smoke point.

Regular olive oil is a good, budget-friendly oil option that can be used for general cooking purposes, especially if the strong flavor of EVOO is too much.

How do you choose a good quality extra virgin olive oil?

When looking for the best olive oil, find a reputable brand that provides information about the olive variety and its origin. It should have a dark bottle to protect the oil from light, and the label should indicate an acidity level of 0.8% or lower. The taste and aroma can also be indicators of quality. A high quality extra virgin olive oil will have a fresh, fruity, and slightly peppery flavor.