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

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

In the most basic terms, oil falls into the two categories of edible and non-edible. Non-edible oil includes things like crude oil, which comes from deep in the earth and goes to power machines. Edible oils, in contrast, come from nuts and seeds and are safe for consumption.

Edible oils can be refined or unrefined. These terms refer to how the raw products — like olives, almonds or coconuts — become an oil. 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 three main oil-extraction methods are:

  • Cold-pressed: When creating a cold-pressed oil, the process must not use or create too much heat. A few of the methods used in cold-pressing include grinding or milling, bladder press extraction and low-resistance expeller pressing. While this process is the least efficient and most expensive extraction method, cold-pressed oil retains more antioxidants than oils pressed at higher temperatures.
  • Expeller-pressed: Expeller presses produce oil by physically squeezing and pressing the source to extract the oil. These large screw-like machines use friction and continuous pressure to produce oil without chemicals or solvents. While expeller pressing does not add heat, the friction from the screw produces heat and warms up the oil. Expeller-pressed oil is a true artisan method of extracting oil. 
  • Solvent extraction: This process uses heat and chemicals like a hexane solvent to extract oil from the source. The oil may also undergo a process of bleaching and deodorization. Solvent extraction often creates a product that is more stable and heat-tolerant.

What Is Virgin or Unrefined Oil?

An unrefined or virgin oil has not undergone refining or processing. The seeds or nuts for these oils only undergo one pressing cycle and do not have heat or chemical solvents added. Cold-pressed and expeller-pressed oils are two methods of producing unrefined oil.

You may also 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.

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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. 

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 makes 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?

Refined oils are pressed like unrefined oil, but they undergo further processing like neutralizing fatty acids and removing phospholipids, after which the oil is filtered to remove any particulates. Often, the oil is mixed with an alkaline substance and washed in a centrifuge.

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 different 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 variousvarious 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.
  • Avacado 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

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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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