We recently received this question on our blog: Is cooking oil the same as RBD?
First, let me explain what this question means, for anyone unfamiliar with the acronym “RBD". RBD stands for “Refined, Bleached and Deodorized” and it is the process of refining an oil. The RBD process involves a number of steps, which we will go through in more detail below.
To summarize, this person asked — is a cooking oil the same thing as a refined oil (or an RBD oil)? The answer is a little bit gray: usually yes, but it also depends on your definition of cooking oil. I will explain more below.
What Is A Cooking Oil?
To most people, a cooking oil is a light colored and flavored vegetable oil like canola or soybean oil. These are your two most common cooking oils. These are the cheapest oils often used for frying, sautéing, baking, etc. Almost all of these cheaper oils are automatically refined as a part of their normal production process.
However, would you classify a sunflower oil as a cooking oil? Most people would. How about an olive oil? Probably yes, that too -- people do cook with it. How about a coconut oil or an avocado oil? Now it starts to get gray...
These natural oils that are on the fringe of being deemed "cooking oils" are what makes answering this question more challenging. These oils can come in unrefined versions like Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Virgin Coconut Oils. Those unrefined oils are NOT RBD, but still could be classified as a cooking oil to some.
What Does RBD Mean?
RBD stands for Refined, Bleached & Deodorized. These terms represent how the oil was processed after being produced. It means that the oil went through a refining process, which strips a lot of the natural color and flavor from the oil, along with (arguably) many of the natural nutrients.
What Does The RBD Process Entail?
The exact refining process is different for each type of oil, though there are some components that look very similar.
For the most part, the process is typically a high heat process, which uses heat or steam to bring the oil up to a very high temperature. They also typically use an earthen bleaching clay to pull any pigment out of the oil. Lastly, the process will often involve filtering, or sometimes double filtering the final product.
The end result is a light colored, neutral flavored, clear oil.
To read one example of the refining process specifically for olive oil, I suggest reading How Olive Pomace Oil Is Made.
For a more exact description of the refining process for each different type of oil you might use, ask your supplier for a Flow Process Chart on the oil that you’re purchasing.
Keep in mind, the refining process can be done organically, so it's common to find organic refined oils as much as non-organic refined oils.
The Question Answered
Are cooking oils also RBD? It all depends on which cooking oil you are thinking of. For the most part, cooking oils are light flavored, cheaper oils like canola, soy, corn, cottonseed, etc. and all of these oils are refined (or RBD).
If you consider the next strata of higher-quality oils, even most sunflower and safflower oils are still refined, along with a few different grades of olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil.
There are a few outliers that remain unrefined: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Extra Virgin Avocado Oil, and Virgin Coconut Oil. These oils may still be used for cooking but will not be refined (or, in other words, RBD).
Which Oils Are Refined And Which Are Not [A CHART]
|Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil||Unrefined (Not RBD)|
|Extra Virgin Olive Oil||Unrefined (Not RBD)|
|Virgin Olive Oil||Unrefined (Not RBD)|
|Pure Olive Oil||Mostly Refined (RBD)|
|Refined Olive Oil||Refined (RBD)|
|Olive Pomace Oil||Refined (RBD)|
|Canola Oil||Refined (RBD)|
|Canola Oil, Expeller Pressed||Refined (RBD)|
|Non-GMO Canola Oil, Expeller Pressed||Refined (RBD)|
|Organic Canola Oil||Refined (RBD)|
|Soybean Oil||Refined (RBD)|
|Non-GMO Soybean Oil, Expeller Pressed||Refined (RBD)|
|Organic Soybean Oil||Refined (RBD)|
|Sunflower Oil, High Oleic Expeller Pressed||Refined (RBD)|
|Organic Sunflower Oil, High Oleic Expeller Pressed||Refined (RBD)|
|Saffflower Oil, High Oleic Expeller Pressed||Refined (RBD)|
|Organic Saffflower Oil, High Oleic Expeller Pressed||Refined (RBD)|
|Coconut Oil||Refined (RBD)|
|Organic Coconut Oil||Refined (RBD)|
|Organic Virgin Coconut Oil||Unrefined (Not RBD)|
|Avocado Oil||Refined (RBD)|
|Extra Virgin Avocado Oil||Unrefined (Not RBD)|