Grades of Oils Explained – Cold-Pressed, Refined, Unrefined, Virgin!


It’s like, most of the FMCG companies, operating in the food products segment, are specialised in “marketing gimmicks” than the food itself! Let’s take oil for instance – virgin oil, extra-virgin oil, refined oil, unrefined oil, cold-pressed oil, raw oil, organic oil…and god knows what more is on the fray!

Here, in this article, we are going to make all of it simple for you!

How is oil extracted?

Many years back, oil was made by crushing the seeds, fruits etc, mechanically by using “ghani / crushers” etc and was driven by animals. The oil extracted is there after filtered to separate the oil from the seed pulp 

oil extraction ghani
Oil Extracted by Mechanical Crushing (Animal driven)

With the advent of technology and machines, this became machine-driven crushing

machine oil extraction
Machine Crushers

Based on how the oil is extracted, the process, heat involved, use of chemicals, amount of crushing, etc, we have the adjectives – Refined, Un-refined, cold-pressed, virgin, extra virgin, Raw etc etc


Raw Oil

Raw oil is extracted by simply crushing the seeds (animal driven crushers or machine crushers) and without any extra chemicals or additions. Such an oil will be very rich in the properties of the original seed/flower, such as anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals etc. Such an oil might also contain (beneficial) microbes. They are very good for application on hair, skin etc and may not last long if not preserved properly. They are not ideal and is unhealthy for stir fry or cooking in very high heat


Cold Pressed Oil

Cold pressed oil is usually made in machine crushers in a controlled temperature and are not heated to extreme temperature. No chemicals are added either, in the process of extraction. Cold pressed oils hence retain most of their subtle flavour, colour and the nutritional value of the seed or flower, from which the oil is made. Cooking in high temperature can destroy the properties of the oil and can make the fat in the oil, unhealthy


Un-refined Oil

Un refined oil is made by crushing seeds in the presence of heat – but, minimal heat. No chemical treatment is done and the oil is neither bleached nor deodorised. The oil hence, still retains some flavour and nutritional value. They are not ideal of cooking in high temperatures. When seeds are crushed carelessly and/or from poor quality fruits and/or is subjected to more heat, the fat in the oil may break down to form fatty acids.

  • Virgin Oil – has comparatively lesser amount of such free fatty acids.
  • Extra Virgin Oil –  has even lesser amount of such free fatty acids.

Eg – Virgin oil oil has less than 1.5% of free fatty acids, while extra virgin oil has less than 0.8% of such free fatty acids


Refined Oil

Refined oil is made by crushing the seeds at high temperature along with chemical treatment. The oil is bleached and deodorised to remove all kind of flavours. This may change the composition of the oil, making the oil very less in the original flavour or other nutrients, anti-oxidants etc. Such an oil is highly heat resistant and has comparitively higher smoke point..and hence can be used for cooking in high temperature. They are also characterised by higher shelf life 

Refining using chemicals at high temperature gives better yield of oil, from the seeds as compared to unrefined or cold-press method of extraction. It is also a common and accepted practice to blend different kinds of refined oil. Also, since the odor and flavour of the oil is removed during the bleaching, the taste / flavour difference will not be evident even if low quality seeds are used for producing oil.

Hence most often, the refined oil that is available in the market may be of low quality seeds or may even be blended with other variety of oils. 


Which of the above variety is healthy?

This really depends on how are you planning to cook your food. If you intend to use the oil for frying then a cold pressed or raw oil might not be a great idea. Most of the cold pressed or unrefined oils such as Olive, sesame, sunflower, canola seeds are all of the unsaturated fat type which is heart healthy. HOWEVER, once they are heated at high temperatures, they ‘may’ become transfat which is really bad for heart!

Hence, refined oil would be a better choice for indian style cooking at high temperature, since it is more heat resistance. Refined oil also has better shelf life, however they are often bleached and is processed chemically and most of the nutrient value of the oil is often destroyed in the process. Besides, the refined oil that is available in the market “may” be a blended variety with other types of oil

Among the different types of oil, which cooking oil is healthy? Coconut oil ? Olive Oil? Sunflower oil? Read abt it here

In a nut shell, the best oil option will be an unsaturated type cold pressed oil, but a high smoke point .

Refer to the article HERE to know about smoke points of oil

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Nabeela

    In a nut shell, the best oil option will be an unsaturated type cold pressed oil, but a high smoke point .
    So when u say this … which oil do u recommend .. is there any cold pressed oil with a high smile point. I’m currently using filtergroundnut oil from Pune for Indian cooling . Is that ok

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