Cold Pressed vs. Cold Extracted: Understanding Extra Virgin Olive Oil Labels

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When it comes to choosing the perfect olive oil for your culinary creations, the options can be overwhelming. Olive oil is not just a cooking ingredient; it’s a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, renowned for its health benefits and rich aroma and flavour. But how do you decipher the labels and select the best option? 

This summer I have organised more than one hundred olive oil tastings and often people ask me is “cold pressed” better than “cold extracted”?  In this article, we’ll delve into the nuances of extra virgin olive oil and demystify terms like “cold pressed” and “cold extracted”. 

The Elegance of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the superior category of olive oil in the market and as I like to say is the fresh juice of the olive fruits that comes directly from the tree without any chemical processes. It’s extracted from the first cold pressing of olives and boasts a myriad of flavours, from grassy and peppery to buttery and fruity. This premium oil is revered for its low acidity, impeccable aroma, and the myriad of health benefits it offers. But what do terms like “cold pressed” and “cold extracted” mean, and why are they significant?

Deciphering the Labels: Cold Pressed vs. Cold Extracted

Cold Pressed:

Traditional Method: Historically, olives were crushed between heavy stone millstones, applying pressure to release their oil. The term “cold pressed” refers to this traditional method, which involves mechanically squeezing the olives without the use of heat or chemicals. Nowadays, we rarely find these type of mills because we are using modern mills which also guarantee a higher quality. 

Cold Extracted:

Modern Technique: Advances in technology have led to the emergence of “cold extracted” olive oil. This process utilises hydraulic presses and centrifuges to extract oil, minimising the use of heat. According to the regulation extra virgin olive oil is the superior category of olive oil obtained directly form olives and solely by mechanical means and by using the cold extraction, that means that from the step one until we get the olive oil the temperature must be under 27 degrees. Cold extraction is mandatory. 

How to Read an Extra Virgin Olive Oil Label

Now that you understand the difference between cold pressed and cold extracted, let’s explore how to interpret an EVOO label effectively:
Look for the “Extra Virgin” Designation: Ensure that the label clearly states “Extra Virgin Olive Oil.” This signifies the highest quality and purest form of olive oil.
Check where it comes from and trust real farms because a farmer will just sell the evoo of the year and freshness matters in olive oil.
Cold Pressed or Cold Extracted: Determine which method was used in production. Some labels will specify “cold pressed,” while others may mention “cold extracted”, for sure modern mills that use the cold extraction method produce a better quality.
Taste Notes: Many high-quality EVOOs provide tasting notes on their web site describing their flavour profile and giving food pairing ideas. These can help you select an oil that suits your culinary needs.
Packaging: Opt for dark, glass bottles or tins to protect the oil from light and air, which can degrade its quality.

Choosing the right extra virgin olive oil can elevate your dishes to new heights, but it requires an understanding of the labels and terminology. Armed with the knowledge of “cold pressed” vs. “cold extracted” and how to read an EVOO label, you’re now ready to embark on a culinary journey that celebrates the exquisite flavours and health benefits of this liquid gold. So, next time you’re in the grocery store or browsing an online marketplace, confidently select the perfect extra virgin olive oil to enhance your culinary creations.