When we’re not sure what exactly to look for when buying olive oil, we just pick the one with a reasonable price tag and a decent-looking bottle. The olive oil aisle in any market can look intimidating, especially when it’s tough to figure out the jargon, so picking one that way seems like a good bet. However, the taste and quality of olive oil can really make a difference to your cooking, and it’s not as difficult to figure out what’s right for you if you know what to look for. To make life easier for you, here’s a simple and exhaustive guide that’ll help you pick the right olive oil.
What are the different types of olive oil and what do they mean?
Extra-virgin olive oil is the highest quality olive oil available. It essentially means that this olive oil has no defects and is unrefined, which means it hasn’t been treated with chemicals or heat. Extra-virgin olive oil has a lower smoking point than other olive oils, so it’s best to use it in salad dressings and to drizzle over your food.
Virgin olive oil comes next, and no heat or chemicals are used in the extraction process here as well. However, virgin olive oil has minimal, almost imperceptible, defects which most people don’t notice. Virgin olive oil is best used for light cooking, like making a quick stir fry or sauteing vegetables.
First Cold Press
Don’t get taken in by this phrase. Traditionally, olive oil was extracted using stone mills and stone presses. After the first extraction, whatever was left would be turned into lower grades of olive oil with the application of heat. These days, most oils are extracted by presses and centrifuges, and extra-virgin olive oil is by definition done by cold press.
The lowest grade olive oil available, pomace is extracted with the use of solvents and heat. Refined pomace oil can be used for deep frying and other forms of cooking since it has a high smoking point.
What else should we keep in mind?
Make sure the bottle is dark and opaque
Exposure to light and heat can spoil olive oil. So, if you see any olive oil in plastic bottles, clear or light-coloured bottles, rule them out immediately. A good olive oil will come in a dark-coloured glass or metal bottle or tin.
Look for “best by” or “harvested on” dates
Olive oil, unlike wine, doesn’t get better with age. Ideally, the bottle should have a “harvested on” date which tells you the date the fruit itself was harvested, but a “best by” date will also work. Once you’ve opened your bottle, use it within two-three months. Olive oil will start to deteriorate as soon as it’s exposed to air, so don’t leave it for too long.
Don’t fall for deals and buy bigger bottles
You might see great deals on the large two-litre tins of olive oil at your supermarket, but unless you’re absolutely sure you’ll use it all up in three months, don’t get it. If you want to enjoy the taste and benefits of olive oil, you want to enjoy it when it’s freshest.
Store it right
Leave it in the bottle it’s come in. Don’t pour it into a fancier clear bottle just because it looks pretty, and keep it in a cool, dark place – and not close to your stovetop.