5 Things Everyone Should Know About Olive Oil

Most people still know very little about Liquid Gold. Here a few things everyone should know about this important staple.
Oct. 9, 2020
Olive Oil Times Staff

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Olive oil, and espe­cially extra vir­gin olive oil, is a cor­ner­stone of the Mediterranean diet. Its health ben­e­fits have been dis­cov­ered and con­firmed in count­less stud­ies, and almost every­thing it graces becomes more delicious.

Even though humans have been cul­ti­vat­ing olives and crush­ing them into oil for thou­sands of years, most peo­ple still know very lit­tle about Liquid Gold. Slick mar­ket­ing and dis­con­certed infor­ma­tion only add to the confusion.

And while entire courses (even col­lege cur­ricu­lums) are devoted to its pro­duc­tion, health aspects and culi­nary uses, there are some things every­one should know about this impor­tant staple.

All olive oils are not created equal

Olive farm­ers and olive oil pro­duc­ers face a range of ever-chang­ing con­di­tions and make choices depend­ing on the means at their dis­posal and the mar­ket they are targeting.

Those aim­ing to pro­duce the gold stan­dard — extra vir­gin olive oil — need to man­age every step of pro­duc­tion with skill and deter­mi­na­tion, not to men­tion a degree of added costs.

Extra vir­gin means the oil is free of taste defects and will pass a bat­tery of tests in a lab. It also means the oil con­tains only the juice of olives, and noth­ing else.

Quality matters

High-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil not only tastes deli­cious, it also boasts greater health ben­e­fits com­pared to the lower grades, such as vir­gin olive oil and pure olive oil.

Even oils that are extra vir­gin can vary in qual­ity and value. For exam­ple, extra vir­gin olive oils with higher antiox­i­dant lev­els will have a longer shelf life than oth­ers and con­tain more of the nutri­ents that we pay extra for.

Bitterness is a good thing

Fresh olives are bit­ter, so the oil made from fresh olives should be bit­ter too. In fact, the bit­ter­ness is an indi­ca­tion of those healthy nutri­ents we expect when we choose extra vir­gin olive oil.

The good news is that peo­ple aren’t shy­ing away from bit­ter fla­vors like they used to. In other cat­e­gories like beer, choco­lates and cof­fee, bit­ter pro­files have become ever more pop­u­lar and asso­ci­ated with well-crafted products.

Keep it fresh

Extra vir­gin olive oil begins to degrade in qual­ity the moment it’s made. Exposure to air, heat and light dra­mat­i­cally quicken the shelf-life. Most extra vir­gin olive oil is no longer extra vir­gin when it is finally consumed.

It’s as if you paid more for a Ferrari, only to drive a Kia your first time behind the wheel.

Look for a har­vest date or bot­tling date on every bot­tle you buy — the more recent the date, the bet­ter. If you can only find a best by” date, it should be at least a year in the future.

Keep it tightly closed in a cool, dark cup­board. Once you open the bot­tle (or tin), use it within a month or two.

Use it for everything

By now every­one should know that olive oil can be used in place of less healthy fats in prac­ti­cally every dish. 

From poach­ing and bak­ing to sautéing to deep-fry­ing, sub­sti­tut­ing but­ter and seed oils for extra vir­gin olive oil is not only the health­i­est option, but your foods will also taste bet­ter too.


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