Olive oil is a liquid fat obtained from olives, a traditional fruit of the Mediterranean Basin. Produced by pressing whole olives, it is widely used in cooking, salad dressings, baking, and even for cosmetic purposes. Known for its numerous health benefits, olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet and is highly valued for its distinct flavor and aroma.
There are various grades of olive oil available in the market, including extra virgin, virgin, pure, and light. Extra virgin olive oil is considered the highest quality, as it is made from the first cold-pressing of olives and contains no artificial processing or additives. This grade is perfect for drizzling over salads, dipping bread, and finishing dishes.
Olive oil is a commonplace ingredient, however, many people don't understand how to fully maximize its properties. The biggest challenge often involves identifying the quality and type of olive oil most suitable for the kind of cooking being done. Extra Virgin Olive oil, which is the highest quality, is the best choice for cold dishes and finishing because of its robust flavor. However, for high heat cooking, use 'Pure' or 'Light' olive oil. Never reuse the oil after frying or roasting.
The temptation to buy olive oil in bulk could lead to wastage, as it has a relatively short lifespan once opened and exposed to air. Always seal your olive oil well to prevent oxidation which can turn it rancid.
The most flavorful olive oil is often cloudy or with sediment at the bottle's bottom, indicative of the least processing. However, many would misinterpret this as a sign of poor quality. Storing olive oil in a cool, dark place is ideal to keep its flavor longer. Olive oil can also be frozen to extend shelf life without changing the texture or taste.
Adding olive oil at the end of a stew or soup can give a richness of flavor. When sautéing with olive oil, do not overheat it; once it starts smoking, it can create an unpleasant taste. Infusing olive oil with herbs or spices can create unique flavors for dressings and marinades.
Is it okay to cook with extra virgin olive oil?
What happens if you fry with extra virgin olive oil?
Is cloudy or green olive oil bad?
Can I use olive oil instead of butter in baking?
What's the right way to dispose of used olive oil?
Is light olive oil lower in calories?
Should I store olive oil in the refrigerator?
What's the difference between extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil?
What do I do if my olive oil tastes rancid?
Can I use olive oil for frying?
Expiration & Storage Tips
When does olive oil expire?
Unopened olive oil should stay fresh for about one to two years when stored in a cool, dark place. However, it's always a good idea to check the 'best by' date on the label to ensure freshness. Once opened, the oil typically lasts about six months if stored correctly. If you choose to freeze olive oil, it can extend it’s life by several months and the quality or taste should not be affected. Just be aware that at freezing temperatures, olive oil may solidify or turn cloudy, but it will regain its normal appearance once defrosted at room temperature.
How do you tell if olive oil is bad?
How to tell if olive oil is off can sometimes be a bit tricky as it doesn't grow mold or turn visibly bad like some other foods. The best way to know for sure is by smelling and tasting it. If the oil has a rancid or sour smell, or if it tastes bitter, stale or off in any way, it's likely gone bad. Quality olive oil should smell fresh, fruity or slightly grassy, and shouldn't leave a greasy or waxy aftertaste.
Tips for storing olive oil to extend shelf life
• Keep the oil stored in a cool, dark place away from heat and light, which can degrade its quality. A pantry or kitchen cabinet that stays below room temperature and is away from the stove or other heat sources is ideal.\n\n• Use dark glass or tin containers for storage. They keep light out better than clear containers, helping to maintain the oil's quality.\n\n• Always screw the cap back on tight after each use to protect it from exposure to air, which can also degrade the oil.\n\n• If you've opened a bottle of olive oil, try to use it within six months for optimal flavor.