• Choosing your Olive Oil

    Extra Virgin? Virgin? Olive Oil? Classic? Light? … What do all of these really mean?

    We will help you to choose the right type of oil in this section.
    Click below to discover easy-to-understand education about types of olive oil.
    Alternatively, go to the next screen on the right to enter the exciting world of varieties and regions.

    Olive oil types
  • Olive Oil Regions & Varieties

    Did you know that olive oil is like wine?
    There are countless varieties of olives grown around the world, and just like grapes to wine, each variety and region has unique taste. This is important to understand because you don’t want to use a bitter olive oil on a delicate piece of white fish, in the same way that you wouldn’t overrun a delicate meal with a hearty Shiraz.

    Click below to learn about prominent olive varieties and regions and how to use these oils.

    Olive Oil RegionsOlive Oil Varieties
  • The 101 of Olive Oil Types

    Olive oil is grouped into three main types:
    Virgin Olive Oils – olive oils that are made only from cold extraction of oil from the olives
    Refined Olive Oils – olive oils made from refining Virgin Olive Oils
    Olive Oils – products made from blending Refined Olive Oils with Virgin Olive Oils

    Testing and grading criteria olive oil are particularly complex at the detailed level, but we have summarised the most important things you need to know to choose the right type of oil when you shop. Scroll down to continue …

Virgin Olive Oils

Virgin Olive Oils are olive oils made only from cold extraction of oil from the olives.

Virgin olive oils are prized for their flavour and their high levels of polyphenols, which are said to have great health benefits as antioxidants.     Two qualities of virgin olive oil are commonly sold in Australia:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – This is the highest grade of virgin olive oil, which must have low free acidity and a faultless flavour.  Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil to add flavour dimensions to your dishes.  In particular this is your best choice for cold use for dipping, on salads and in final touches to dishes.  Keep your eye out for:

  • Unfiltered – An Extra Virgin that still has fruit sediments. A very thick oil that sticks well to salad leaves and other foods, while giving extremely vibrant colour.
  • Mono-varietal – Extra Virgin made from a single variety of olive for a specific flavour (much like a wine that can be made only from one type of grape).  To read more about varieties click here.

Virgin Olive Oil – This is the second grade of virgin olive oil types.  It is allowed to have higher free acidity and a few flavour/odour defects.  Generally it will possess less flavour and fewer health attributes compared to Extra Virgin but can be useful for general cooking purposes.

Watch out!

Cooking with virgin olive oils is fine up until temperatures of 180-210ºC, depending on the quality of the oil you have chosen.  This is higher than most recommended healthy cooking temperatures, but for confidence at higher temperature cooking, cook with types of olive oils containing refined olive oil.

Colour is not an indicator of quality.  Virgin oils can be green or yellow depending on the variety of olive, the region or the time of the season the fruit is harvested.

Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil  will settle due to the sediment present.  It may be more susceptible to degradation over time, so use it up!

Refined Olive Oil

Refined Olive Oil is made from refining Virgin Olive Oils

Refined olive oil is the olive oil obtained from virgin olive oils (most commonly from Lampante Virgin Olive Oil) by refining methods which do not lead to alterations in the initial fat structure.  It must be very low in free acidity (lower than extra virgin olive oil) and is almost odourless and tasteless and is of a very faint yellow colour.

Refined olive oil is generally only ever used for blending with virgin olive oils to make the product known as “Olive Oil”.

The retention of the natural fat structure preserves the health benefits of olive oil’s high monounsaturated fats content, although the refining process removes antioxidants and polyphenols found in virgin olive oils.

Watch out!

Refined olive oil is not a bad product.  In fact it is arguably the most pure form of the oil fat within an olive because it has been stripped of almost all components other than the actual oil/fat compounds.   That’s why it is tasteless, odourless, near-colourless and won’t burn until very high temperatures.  Despite widespread misinformation on the topic, Olive Oil refining is not equivalent to the heavy-duty solvent extraction method refining used for other vegetable and seed cooking oils.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil is the official name for an olive oil blend that is not 100% made from virgin olive oils.

The typically high content of refined olive oil in these blends makes them naturally light in flavour and tends to make them more suitable for very high temperature cooking, and often also cheaper in price.   “Olive Oil” must meet certain criteria for low free acidity and acceptable flavour.  Two variants of Olive Oil are commonly sold in Australia:

Classic/Pure/Traditional/Mild-taste

Considered the “original” Olive Oil blend due to its early adoption in new markets versus the more strongly-tasting Extra Virgin Olive Oil; became known by many as Classic or Pure because in the early days of olive oil in Australia, brands needed to distinguish this product from other blends that were not 100% olive oil.

Content: 10-25% Extra Virgin/Virgin Olive Oil; 75-90% Refined Olive Oil.

FlavourButtery, sweet flavour; hint of olives

Usage:   Perfect for general cooking; easily stands temperatures up to 210-220ºC or higher if of good quality; imparts a mild addition of flavour, without overpowering the food.

Extra Light/Light/Light-taste

When consumers wanted the health benefits of olive oil, but demanded an even lighter tasting oil, suitable for very high temperature cooking, this product was born.

Content: 5-15% Extra Virgin/Virgin Olive Oil; 85-95% Refined Olive Oil

FlavourNear flavourless; very slight hint of sweet butter

Usage:   Great for cooking when no olive oil flavour is wanted (or as a butter substitute); easily withstands temperatures of 220-240ºC or higher; great for Asian stir-frying, flash-frying or deep-frying.

Watch out!

Light refers to flavour and colour, not fat.  The concept of “Lite” diet products is relatively recent in Australia (compared to this product) and therefore does not apply to olive oil.  There is no such thing as an olive oil that is lighter in fat than other olive oils.

Strong taste or odour (particularly unpleasant) is not normal for these products and is an indicator of poor quality, rancidity, or potentially blending with other oils.  Quality products will have only mild pleasant flavours.

Olive Pomace Oil

“But what is Olive Pomace Oil?”

“Pomace” is the left-over paste after the virgin olive oil is extracted from the olive.  It can be refined using heat and chemical solvents to produce Refined Olive Pomace Oil.

Technically, Olive Pomace Oil is not an olive oil, that’s why it isn’t called Pomace Olive Oil!

Sometimes used by restaurants for cooking, but not often sold to consumers, Olive Pomace Oil is the blend of Refined Olive Pomace Oil and Virgin Olive Oil.  It is allowed to have taste defects and a higher free acidity than olive oils.

The advantage of Olive Pomace Oil is that it is relatively cheap compared to Olive Oil, however it neither has the same flavour, nor health attributes as olive oil.

To learn more, check out our Glossary, visit the IOC website or contact us at the bottom of this page.

BUYING TIPS FOR OLIVE OIL

Now that you know what you want, make sure you buy what you want!

Follow these simple tips to make sure you buy well.

Do

Tick DO know your intended use to choose the right type and variety of olive oil.
Tick DO consider olive oil as an ingredient – having a pantry with various olive oils for use in different dishes is the goal
Tick DO choose a bottle or tin size you can use comfortably within around 2-3 months.
Tick DO prefer a tin or a dark glass bottle, if buying extra virgin olive oil
Tick DO Read the label. Olive oil from quality sources will contain important information on the label, including:
          – Producer/distributor/importer name
          – Full statement of ingredients
          – Clear description of origin of the oil (even if packed elsewhere)
          – Best Before Date & Production Lot Code
          – A quality/authenticity seal based on IOC standard

Don’t

Cross DON’T purchase a large format, when you need a small one. Once open to the air, your oil starts to oxidise and lose flavour faster.
Cross DON’T buy packages that show signs of improper handling or storage, or indicate old oil. This could include:
          – Dust on the bottle
          – Damaged seals/caps
          – Evidence of drips or leaks
          – Orange tint to the oil – this indicates damaged oil due to over-exposure to fluorescent lighting and/or heat

Beware: Common Consumer Traps

WATCH OUT for Freshness & Quality Claims by Origin:

  • Claims that a country of origin is fresher, healthier or better quality than others are false and potentially illegal under Australian Consumer Law for misleading/deceptive conduct.
  • Don’t make assumptions based on country of origin! Every country can produce good and poor oils, and since olives are only harvested once per year no single country has an advantage on freshness either.
  • Check Best Before Date or Harvest Year to get a feel for how fresh the oil is.  Aside short-life varieties, most oils use “Best Before” recommendations that are 18-24 months from production.
  • REMEMBER: Judge quality and flavour for yourself – you are the consumer!

WATCH OUT for “Too Good to be True” deals on unknown brands:

  • An unknown brand suddenly offers olive oil at vegetable oil prices? – If it seems too good to be true, it might not be true!
  • Avoid the risk: Try a small bottle before you buy big quantities of a new brand or stick to well-known, trusted brands.

WATCH OUT for misleading Awards and Medals:

  • Oil is an agricultural product that varies by each small batch, unlike many food products produced according to a recipe.
  • Awards for extra virgin should only apply to a specific batch in a specific harvest year, since this is what is tested.
  • Beware of products with general claims about being awarded except where award stickers are individually numbered by the award giver and applied to limited volume or specific batches.
  • Check the award comes from an authoritative competition or body, such as an IOC-accredited competition. Do research on the award to find out more about its value.  If in doubt about the merit of an award claimed, write to the AOOA to ask us.
  • Watch for graphics that are simply made up to look like a medal!

STORAGE TIPS FOR OLIVE OIL

Success! You brought your selection of olive oils home! Keep them well!

Follow these simple tips to make sure your oil lasts properly.

Do

Tick DO store olive oil in a cool, dark place (eg. cupboard/pantry)
Tick DO keep the lid on your bottle/tin when not in use to limit oxidation as much as possible
Tick DO use small bottles/decanters/containers for use at the table rather than the large tin/bottle. That way the tin and bottle does not stay out and exposed to oxygen during your meals
Tick DO consider storing your oil in the refrigerator if you live in a hot region, but remember you will have to bring it out a few hours before use
Tick DO consider if you are using the right type of olive oil for your cooking. Olive Oils tend to have higher smoke points than Extra Virgin Olive Oils, so are better suited to very high temperature frying or deep-frying

Don’t

Cross DON’T store olive oil next to (or above) the stove, where it will be damaged by heat
Cross DON’T s
tore olive oil on top of the fridge or other appliances – often this is a warm place!
Cross DON’T s
tore bottles of olive oil in places exposed to light (eg. near a window), even if the bottle is dark glass
Cross DON’T l
eave a pouring spout on the bottle unless the opening is sealed tightly – the oil will otherwise oxidise
Cross DON’T t
op-up a decanter/bottle still containing old oil with new oil. Use up the oil completely before refilling
Cross DON’T w
aste your expensive extra virgin olive oil on very high temperature cooking. The taste will be lost anyway and burnt Extra Virgin Olive Oils can impart undesirable tastes in your dish

REMEMBER: Oxygen, Light and Heat are the enemies of olive oil! Protect it!

Note: Storing olive oil in the fridge can be great because it will keep the oil fresher for long periods of time, however olive oil will solidify in the fridge.  Solidification is not damaging, but before use you will need to allow time at room temperature for the oil to slowly liquefy again (don’t try to speed up the process by heating it!), so take it out of the fridge at least a few hours before.

Tip: You don’t need to be a heavy olive oil user to buy bulk formats such as 3 or 4 litre tins.  You can decant a larger tin into several smaller bottles, which you can store in the fridge (all except for one that you keep on your bench at room temperature).  That way you have always one bottle ready to go, and the rest is well-conserved in the fridge for later.