Frequently Asked Questions About Olive Oil
Want to taste bitter? Try an olive picked off a tree! Olives are bitter – and so is good olive oil. Bitterness, along with pungency and fruitiness are all present and well-balanced in the very best olive oils. For more on olive oil taste characteristics, see this article.
Olive oil should be kept away from light and heat, so the worst places are on a window sill, next to the stove or on top of the refrigerator. Instead, store unopened bottles in a dark cupboard or cool basement. Once you open a bottle, try to use it all within a month or two.
The color of olive oil is not an indication of quality, and you shouldn’t choose one because it’s greener or more gold. Olive oil should be chosen for taste – not for its color.
If you crush a bunch of olives, you’ll get olive oil and some water. Gravity takes care of that — the oil will soon float to the top. That’s how simple olive oil really is. Of course there’s a bigger story behind it, which is what we cover every day around the world.
Olive oil is known as one of the best sources of monounsaturated fatty acids, a type of fat that has been shown to improve blood cholesterol levels. The antioxidants in olive oil have also been shown to help fight a multitude of diseases. Olive Oil Times has a library of research on the health benefits of olive oil.
You can find good olive oil at your local store, but it helps to know what to look for. Make sure the olive oil is fresh. Ask the merchant for recommendations. Find a brand you like and learn what good olive oil tastes like. The Olive Oil Guide lists many great olive oils and the places they’re sold.
First, olive oil is considered “extra virgin” when it has been produced by a simple pressing of the olives. Other grades like “olive oil” are usually produced using chemicals and other processes to extract the oil from the olives. Second, extra virgin must meet certain laboratory tests on things like acidity and levels of peroxide. Finally, extra virgin olive oil must taste like olives and it can’t have any negative tastes that professionals refer to as “defects.” Read more about extra virgin here.
Taste it. Pour a little into a small shot glass or on a spoon and slurp it down. Close your eyes and really taste it. If you’re tasting an extra virgin olive oil, it should taste “green” and like olives. You might detect other notes like banana or grass. Other grades will not taste like much because they have been treated to remove unpleasant tastes. But you should not detect any bad tastes, such as cardboard or metallic. You might sometimes taste nice flavors in lower grades due to the small amount of extra virgin that is added. To learn more about tasting olive oil see An Introduction to Olive Oil Tasting.
As long as it’s stored away from heat and light, an unopened bottle of good quality olive oil will be fine for up to two years from the date it was bottled. Once the bottle is opened, it should be used within a few months.
The best olive oil in the world is made in Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Tunisia, Syria, Chile, Argentina, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and a bunch of other countries. The worst olive oil in the world is made in all of those same places. Get the point?
While some countries can boast that they have the know-how of countless generations of olive oil makers, the fact is that olive oil is only as good as this year’s production. Olive oil competitions throughout the world try to declare each season’s champion. But there are many perfect olive oils that never get judged that way, but instead are shared by producers with their local communities, families and friends like a well-kept secret. See the olive oil guide for some of their stories.
Unless you cook with very high heat (heat beyond what most residential stoves can even achieve), you can use olive oil for all of your cooking. Extra virgin olive oil does lose its great taste when it’s heated to a point, so you might want to choose a more economical grade when you cook above a low/medium heat. If you’re not too concerned about the cost, go ahead and use extra virgin for everything. See the recipes section for more ideas for cooking with olive oil.
Yes! Extra virgin olive oil’s smoke point is generally given as 410 degrees Fahrenheit, far above 250-350 degrees that covers most cooking. Make fried food healthier by using olive oil. Try gently frying an egg in EVOO, make French fries and fried chicken in olive oil. See the recipes section for more ideas.
Unfiltered oil will be cloudy until it settles to the bottom. Some consider unfiltered oil better because of the added flavor from the fruit particles. Unfiltered olive oil will usually have a shorter shelf life, so it should be consumed more quickly. Don’t let whether an olive oil is filtered or not determine your choice. It is far less important than other quality parameters like freshness and taste.