Refined Oils vs. Unrefined Oils: What’s the Difference?

Refined Oils vs. Unrefined Oils: What’s the Difference?

At La Tourangelle, we prefer oils that are not fully refined. Those oils will retain their natural colors, flavors and health benefits. For high temperature cooking or neutral flavors, refined oils is the way to go. Better to stick with expeller pressed and organic refined oils.

More on the differences below:

Edible oils can be refined or unrefined. Discover the difference between refined and unrefined oils and how to use each type.

Why Are There Different Classifications of Oils?

The different processes to extract the oil produce different classifications. Each process produces a slightly different result and may have different purposes. The two main oil-extraction methods are:

  • Mechanical extraction: The three main ways to mechanically extract an oil from a seed or nut are: Centrifuge Extraction (olive & avocado), Hydraulic Press (Roasted nut oils), Continuous screw press (or expeller press- for most seeds). It is best to control the temperature during pressing. If the temperature is kept below 100F, it is "cold" pressed. This is best to protect the oil quality and its nutrients. If the mechanically extracted oil does not need refining, then it is a virgin oil. It it needs refining, we call it crude oil. 
  • Solvent extraction: This process also called chemical extraction uses chemicals like a hexane solvent to extract oil from the source. Solvent extraction is the most efficient and commonly used for commercial / commodity oils like soybean oil. Your fast food restaurant fries all their oils in solvent extracted oils. A solvent extracted oil has to be refined to be edible.

What Is Virgin or Unrefined Oil?

Unrefined or virgin oil has not undergone refining or further processing aside of filtration. The oil was simply carefully mechanically extracted from the source. This is the best oil you can get.

You may see the word “virgin” applied to various oils, especially olive and coconut oils. Virgin is often a term to indicate that an oil is unrefined. It also indicates that the oil is of a higher grade than other oils. However, that does not mean non-virgin oils are bad.

la tourangelle unrefined oil benefits

Olive oil, for example, comes in virgin, extra virgin, and pure forms. Virgin and extra virgin olive oils are unrefined and must adhere to the highly regulated standards the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets. Extra virgin olive oil must contain less than 0.8 grams of free acidity, while virgin olive oil contains no more than 2 grams of free acidity. To qualify as extra virgin, an olive oil also needs to have no major flavor defects. Developed by renown sensory scientist, Sue Langstaff of Applied Sensory, The Defects Wheel® for Olive Oil is an easy to use, detailed educational guide in simplified volvelle form for aroma and flavor defects found in olive oil:

On the other hand, pure olive oil is lighter in color and has a more neutral flavor. While its quality is lower than virgin or extra virgin olive oil, it is still making an excellent choice for all-purpose cooking oil.

Is Organic the Same as Unrefined?

Organic oils can be refined or unrefined. You may see some oils with a label declaring that they are organic. Products classify as organic based on the practices farmers use while cultivating their crops. 

On the other hand, the processing determines whether an oil is refined or unrefined. You are just as likely to find a refined organic oil as an unrefined organic one.

What Is Refined Oil?

Refining an oil involves different steps usually summarized as R B D W. R stands for refining (gum and wax removal), B for bleaching (color, flavor and soap stock removal), D for deodorizing (FFA removal) and W for winterizing (to make the oil clear at low temperature). Most oil soluble vitamins and antioxidants are remove during the refining steps. If those steps are too harsh, new harmful contaminants can also be created.

Without getting too technical, there are 2 main ways to refine an oil: Mechanical or Chemical refining. A mechanical refining (used for organic oils and by La Tourangelle) focuses on making a refined oils without any chemicals.

Refined oil goes through much more processing than unrefined oil. It often produces a product with a longer shelf life, lower smoke point and fewer particles. Refined oils are often better for deep-frying at high temperatures because of their higher smoke point.

Which Type of Oil Should You Use?

Knowing which type of oil to use may be confusing. Coconut vs. canola, virgin vs. refined oil — you have many diverse types and varieties to choose between. While edible oils are made for cooking, they also function as aids in beauty and skincare regimens. 

Oils for Cooking

You can use oils in cooking in various applications, from sauteing and frying to dressings and marinades. 

Be careful when choosing the oil you use with heat, as different oils tolerate temperatures differently. Here is a look at some of the most popular cooking oils and their smoke points:

  • Avocado oil: Avocado oil has a high smoke point at 520 F. This oil will bring a light, fruity flavor to dishes.
  • Canola oil: Great for high-heat cooking and deep-frying, canola oil’s smoke point is 375-450 F.
  • Coconut oil: Coconut oil has a lower smoke point at 350 F and is perfect for healthy sauteing and baking. 
  • Grapeseed oil: With a light, pleasant flavor, grapeseed oil has a smoke point of around 420-450 F.
  • Nut oils: Nuts like walnut, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios and almonds make excellent cooking oils. Their smoke points will vary by the nut.
  • Olive oil: Olive oil has a smoke point of 325-375 F. Its bright, peppery flavor makes it a perfect overall cooking oil for roasting, sauteing and marinating. 
  • Peanut oil: Another great oil for deep frying, peanut oil’s smoke point is 450 F. This oil lends an aromatic, nutty flavor to dishes.
  • Sunflower oil: With a smoke point of 450 F, sunflower oil is great for various high-heat cooking methods.

Oils for Beauty

You can also use oils for skin care and beauty purposes. Several oils have great natural benefits for hair and skin:

  • Coconut oil is a perfect solution for naturally rehydrating the skin and scalp.
  • Grapeseed oil can help enhance the softness and elasticity of the skin.
  • Almond oil has high concentrations of vitamins A and E.
  • Avocado oil can soothe and relieve itchy, dry skin.
  • Olive oil can rejuvenate dry, brittle hair.
  • Sunflower oil can fight dandruff and breakage. 

Get Artisan Oils From La Tourangelle

artisan unrefined oil la tourangelle

La Tourangelle is your source for artisan oils carefully crafted in our time-honored tradition. We know you care about what you put into your body, so we use only the best nuts and flavors to create a superior product. Shop all our oils online and find tasty recipes and other great ideas on our blog.

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