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Oils are fats refined from plant seeds, nuts, beans, or fruit. They are mechanically or chemically extracted, refined or unrefined, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, or hydrogenated. Oils are essential in many food preparations for cold sauces, including mayonnaise and vinaigrette.

Extraction Methods

The hydraulic press method is the oldest and most natural way to extract oil. It has been used for centuries to process extra virgin olive oil and is the only method recognized as actual cold pressing.

The expeller method uses a mechanical press to extract the oils. This process generates heat from the friction of the press to about 120˚F (49˚C), but it still qualifies as cold pressing.

The cheapest way to extract oil is through chemical extraction with the help of petroleum-based solvents. This involves heating the seeds or plant fibers and adding the chemicals to dissolve and separate the oils. Considered the most efficient way of extraction because it recovers up to 99% of the plant oils, it also is the most destructive to the environment. These oils are highly refined through further processing. The majority of soybean oil on the market is processed using chemical extraction.

Cold-pressed oils are either hydraulic or expeller-pressed. The term is not regulated and, therefore, subject to different interpretations. Generally speaking, the oil temperature must never exceed 120 ˚F (49˚C) during the process, but true cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, according to the International Olive Council, must never be higher than 86°F (30°C).

Refined & Unrefined

Unrefined oils are filtered and bottled without further processing and are considered healthier because they retain more nutrients. They have more flavor and color, some visible impurities, and are susceptible to spoiling faster. Unrefined oils have a lower smoke point; certain ones, including extra virgin olive oil, are not intended for frying.

Refined oils are heated to 450˚F (225˚C), deodorized, and bleached to remove unwanted odors and colors. This process strips out flavor and nutrients, often producing bland, neutral-tasting oil. The advantage of refined oils is that they have a longer shelf life than unrefined oils.


Hydrogen atoms convert liquid oils into solid or semi-solid fats like shortening and margarine. Hydrogenated oils are used in baking as a substitute for butter. The advantage of hydrogenation is that the oils are easier to store and resist rancidity, plus they provide texture in baked goods. However, hydrogenated oils have been found to contain trans-fatty acids that elevate bad cholesterol in humans and, therefore, should be eaten minimally.

Saturated, Monounsaturated & Polyunsaturated Oils

All fats and oils contain certain levels of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. Animal fats, coconut, palm kernel, and palm oil have more saturated fats than mono and polyunsaturated fats. Fats lower in saturated fats are healthier for humans.

Saturated fats contain a chain of carbon atoms fully saturated with hydrogen atoms. Animal fats, such as lard, butter, cream, and cheese, usually contain a high proportion of saturated fat. Some vegetable oils high in saturated fats include coconut oil, cottonseed oil, and palm kernel oil.

Monounsaturated fats have one double-bonded, unsaturated carbon in the molecule. Monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but semi-solid or solid when chilled. Monounsaturated oils include olive, sunflower, canola, grape seed, peanut, sesame, almond, and avocado.

Polyunsaturated fats have more than one double-bonded or unsaturated carbon molecule and are considered healthier because they contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats. They are liquid at room temperature and when chilled. Vegetable oils, including soybean, corn, and safflower oil, and fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and trout, are all high in polyunsaturated fats. Other sources include flaxseed, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.

Storing Oils

Oils will spoil with age or abuse. Keep oils appropriately sealed and store them in a cool, dark place. If the oil has a strong aroma and taste, it is rancid and should be discarded.

Olive oil is a liquid fat obtained by pressing whole olives, the fruit of Olea europaea, a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin, and extracting the oil.

It is commonly used in cooking for frying foods or as a salad dressing. It can also be found in some cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, soaps, and fuels for traditional oil lamps. It also has additional uses in some religions. The olive is one of three core food plants in Mediterranean cuisine, together with wheat and grapes. Olive trees have been grown around the Mediterranean since the 8th millennium BC.

Spain is the world's largest producer, manufacturing almost half of the world's olive oil. Other large producers are Italy, Greece, Tunisia, Turkey and Morocco.

The composition of olive oil varies with the cultivar, altitude, time of harvest, and extraction process. It consists mainly of oleic acid (up to 83%), with smaller amounts of other fatty acids including linoleic acid (up to 21%) and palmitic acid (up to 20%). Extra virgin olive oil is required to have no more than 0.8% free acidity and is considered to have favorable flavor characteristics.

Types of olive oil

There are four main types of olive oil: extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, pure olive oil, and light olive oil. Here is a bit about each:

  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) – This is my preferred type of olive oil, as it is the least- processed, most rich-tasting olive oil. Quality cold-pressed EVOO should have an acidity level of 0.8% or less, the lower the acidity levels, the higher the quality (our Greek Early Harvest EVOO, for example, has an acidity level of 0.21%). Good EVOO is also rich  in polyphenols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Generally speaking, extra virgin olive oil with polyphenol levels above 220 is considered a high-polyphenol EVOO (for example, our Spanish Hojiblanca EVOO has a polyphenol count of 392, while our Italian Nocellara EVOO has a 412 polyphenol count!)  

  • Virgin olive oil – Unlikely to be found at your local grocery store, this type of olive oil is quite similar to extra virgin olive oil. However, virgin olive oil is slightly lower in quality, and has an acidity around 1.5%.

  • Pure olive oil (or “olive oil”) – To put it simply, when the term “pure” is used, it is meant to tell you that the bottle contains only olive oil, however, it can be a blend of virgin  oils (about 15% to 20%) and the remaining 75% or so would likely be refined olive oils. These are usually lighter-tasting oils.

  • Light olive oil – Contrary to what its name suggests, light olive oil does not have fewer calories and it is not a low-fat form of olive oil. The term “light” here refers to the flavor rather than the caloric content (all olive oil will contain about 14 grams of fat per tablespoon). Like pure olive oil, light olive oil is a blend of oils, and it has a higher smoke point than extra virgin olive oil.

 Over the past half-dozen years, one of America’s most dependable, all-purpose pantry staples has taken a severe hit to its reputation.

Vegetable oil is key to cooking an infinite variety of food, whether fried chicken, roast vegetables, banana bread or popcorn. According to the US Department of Agriculture, about 20% of the American diet comes from the all-purpose oil.

But vegetable oils—including canola, corn, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, rice bran and soy—are often created from barely edible, indigestible seeds, grains and legumes that our body can’t properly digest. Experts at the Cleveland Clinic agree that seed oils contain potentially harmful omega-6 fats. “We should avoid these at all costs,” says noted functional medicine doctor and author, Frank Lipman.

Now, oils made from better quality ingredients are moving into restaurant kitchens and high-end grocery stores.

Although vegetable oils’ bad rap comes in part from their elevated levels of unhealthy omega-6 fats—a cause of internal inflammation—Zero Acre Farms’ product contains less than 3% of them. Instead, it’s made up of 93% omega-9, heart-healthy, heat-stable monounsaturated fat, making it even higher in “good fat” than olive oil and avocado oil. It also has a carbon footprint that’s about 10 times lower than most vegetable oils and a smoke point of 485F. (By comparison, olive oil’s smoke point is around 400F; canola oil’s ranges from 375°F to 475°F.)

But some chefs are reaching for more traditional products to replace unhealthy vegetable oils. At New York’s Korean tasting menu haunt Kochi, chef Sungchul Shim uses perilla leaf oil both for cooking and finishing dishes. The popular Korean ingredient is not only fragrant and flavorful, but it also has notable amounts of omega-3 fats. Over in Brooklyn, chef Jay Kumar of Lore cooks with coconut oil from his native India. In addition to its unique nutty-sweet taste, coconut oil is said to raise HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and it promotes heart health.

Also increasingly popular in restaurant kitchens is avocado oil. With a notably high smoke point of 520°F and anti-inflammatory properties, it’s the pick of Shaun Hergatt of New York’s  seafood-focused Vestry. Hergatt says he uses it to cook vegetables and seafood, as the oil doesn’t burn easily and “keeps [the] purity of what you are cooking.”

Will the new alternative oils become a staple of home kitchens? It depends on whether people will spend what is closer to the price of a fancy bottle of olive oil to fry chicken. Meanwhile, there’s always those traditional oils: A good 16-oz. bottle of avocado oil retails for less than $12


  • Organic Canola

  • Ghee

  • Coconut Oil

  • Avacado Oil

  • Bacon fat

  • Shmatlz

  • Peanut Oil

  • Safflower Oil

  • Grapeseed Oil

That's all for today folks! Enjoy your weekend, and I will see you on the flipside!

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