Oil is one of the most commonly used culinary ingredients but oftentimes the least considered. It is vital for almost everything we eat, whether baking, frying, and stewing or sautéing and seasoning. But what makes a good oil?
With a diverse range of 17, including Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Rapeseed, Avocado and Walnut Oil, we thought we would share with you what we think is important when considering a good oil.
There is one key difference between extra virgin and virgin olive oil: acidity level. If the oil has an acidity level less than or equal to 0.8%, it is classified as extra virgin. If the oil has an acidity level between 0.8% and 2%, it is graded as virgin. Any olive oil with an acidity level above this is falls into the more conventional olive oil varieties.
Extra Virgin is considered the highest standard for olive oil because it has fewer impurities, has a fruitier flavour and retains more of its nutritional value. As the acidity level increases, the oil tends to lose more of its flavour and nutritional properties.
With Clearspring, you get an organic, cold-extracted superior quality extra virgin olive oil from Italy, which is considered the home of the finest olive oils in the world.
There are two main methods by which oil is extracted: hot and cold pressing. As the name suggests, hot pressing is when heat and even additional chemicals are used to extract the oil, and cold pressing is when the raw product is pressed without any external heat being applied.
Hot pressing is used to make conventional, mass market oils, because the process is quicker, cheaper and can produce more oil. Cold pressing is simply pressing the nut and seed ingredients without external sources of heat or chemicals applied to the process. The latter allows the oil to retain more of its flavour and nutritional value creating a higher quality product.
Once the oil is extracted from the raw ingredient, it needs to be further processed to remove any residual particles that might be left from pressing, also known as “degumming”. Oils will fall into two categories at this stage: refined and unrefined. Like the pressing process, heat is one of the key elements which defines the method. Refined oils are subjected to heat pressure at this stage. This again, is a mass market method which is quicker and cheaper. The oil may also undergo further processes dependent on who it is aimed at. These processes include neutralisation, discolouration, winterisation, bleaching and deodorisation. Each of these processes stabilises the oil further at the expense of extracting nutrients such as fatty acids, proteins and carbohydrates. Such refinement allows the product to become more uniform in taste, clearer and more visually attractive and less reactive to oxidation and light. In some cases, soap is created as a side product.
Unrefined oil is processed much more gently using filters rather than heat after extraction. Like cold pressing, this helps the oil retain its flavour and nutritional properties, which would otherwise be degraded with the application of external heat.
When choosing an oil, it is important to know what the maximum temperature is at which it should be heated. Oils will naturally denature upon contact with heat. This can lead to carcinogenic compounds being created.
Cooking will inevitably subject the oil to heat. It is therefore important to choose a suitable oil to match your type of cooking. Oils with a lower heat tolerance or “smoke point” are oftentimes ideal for sautéing, in dressings or for cold use which add a delicious depth of flavour to dishes, such as Clearspring’s Organic Rapeseed Oil which has a smoke point for 100 degrees Celsius and our Walnut Oil which should not be heated.
If you plan to cook at high temperatures, e.g. deep or shallow frying, an oil such as our Organic Olive Oil or Sunflower Frying Oil is perfect. Both can be used for cooking at a maximum 190 degrees Celsius.
We have created a helpful Smoking Point guide which shows the maximum temperature our oils should be heated to, to ensure you can still enjoy as much of their flavour and nutritional values.
|ORGANIC OIL||OMEGA 3 content
(g per 100 ml)
|OMEGA 3 claim||VITAMIN E content
(mg per 100 ml)
|VITAMIN E claim||MAXIMUM HEATING
High in Vitamin E
Do not heat
|FLAX||49||High in Omega 3 Fatty Acid||0||Do not heat|
|HAZELNUT||1||18||High in Vitamin E||180ºC|
|HEMP||17||High in Omega 3 Fatty Acid||21||
High in Vitamin E
|Do not heat|
|ITALIAN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE||1||18||High in Vitamin E||190ºC|
|RAPESEED||6||High in Omega 3 Fatty Acid||23||High in Vitamin E||100ºC|
|SAFFLOWER||0||37||High in Vitamin E||100ºC|
|SOYA||5||High in Omega 3 Fatty Acid||9||High in Vitamin E||100ºC|
|STYRIAN PUMPKIN SEED||0||18||High in Vitamin E||100ºC|
|SUNFLOWER||0||46||High in Vitamin E||100ºC|
|SUNFLOWER FRYING||0||38||High in Vitamin E||190ºC|
|TUNISIAN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE||0||190ºC|
|WALNUT||10||High in Omega 3 Fatty Acid||0||Do not heat|
Put simply, organic food is produced using very rigorous standards. Those standards are put in place to ensure that when food is produced every part of the process is carefully managed to ensure that the soil is nourished, the eco-system is preserved, and people are protected. This includes measures such as:
All these measures mean cleaner, healthier and more nourished soils, which in turn means cleaner water (reducing the risk of contamination from pesticides and chemicals), cleaner air (healthy soil can better absorb carbon) and ultimately, delicious, nutrient rich products.
As advocates for delicious, premium quality, sustainably produced foods, you will not be surprised that all our oils are cold pressed, unrefined and organic. We believe that food should not just taste great, but also provide as much nutritional value as possible.