“Virgin” in this context simply means that the coconut oil is produced without the use of the dried, inedible coconut meat (copra). Instead, the oil is produced using a wet-milling process or a quick-drying process.
The wet-milling process uses boiling, fermentation, enzymes and a centrifuge to separate the coconut milk from the meat. With the quick-dry method, the meat is quickly dried and the oil is extracted. No additives, bleaching or high heat is used in producing virgin oil. VCO is colourless and has a fresh coconut scent.
VCO is a superior cooking oil because about 90% of the fatty acids in coconut oil are saturated. Why, you ask? Well, the high saturation makes the oil resistant to oxidation, thus giving it a very high smoke point—the temperature at which something begins to decompose. An oil with a high smoke point is therefore suitable for high-heat cooking.
Using coconut oil also gives a great nutritional advantage, as we will see later in this series of articles.
Fractionated Coconut Oil (FCO)
FCO, as the name suggests, is simply a fraction of the original constituents of coconut oil. Coconut oil has some elements (long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs), fatty acids with 14 or more carbons that are found in most fats and oils) that restrict it from being completely saturated.
FCO does not have these LCFAs; this leads to greater stability and longer shelf life. FCO is mainly used in cosmetics, aromatherapy, medicine and cooking, and is prepared through hydrolysis and steam distillation.