Everyone loves extra virgin olive oil. It's healthy and delicious. But there is a lot of misinformation about olive oil floating around the internet. Here are 10 things you may not know about olive oil.
1- Olives are a fruit and olive oil is fruit juice. Olives are a type of fruit called a drupe. They grow on trees and start off green and ripen to a dark red/brown color. Extra virgin olive oil is the juice of an olive with the water and solids filtered out.
2 - Olive oil doesn't get better with age. Samin Nosrat tells a story in Salt Fat Acid Heat about a couple that received a high quality bottle of olive oil as a wedding present. They used the oil only on special occasions, drop by drop. Don't be like this couple! Olive oil is not like wine. It does not improve with age. Use it up quickly after opening the bottle (within 2 or 3 months) and be sure to check the best by date before purchasing.
3 - Your olive oil was probably not pressed. Traditionally, stone mills, straw mats and screw presses were used to crush olives and then press the oil out of them. Nowadays, machines are used to crush the olives and malaxers and centrifuges are used to extract the oil. The newer, modern methods are faster, much cleaner, and produce much higher quality olive oil. The use of the terms "cold pressed" or "first cold-press" on an extra virgin olive oil label is intended to indicate that the oil was extracted by mechanical means without the addition of high heat. Learn more about olive oil extraction and olive oil terminology.
4 - Extra light olive oil does not mean light in calories. In fact, the label should specify that "extra light" refers to the flavor and/or color of the olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil and extra light olive oil have the same number of calories per serving. (In fact, all fats including butter, lard, coconut oil, vegetable oils, palm oil, etc. contain the same number of calories and grams of fat per serving.)
5 - Color of olive oil does not impact the flavor. Many people believe that a very green color indicates high quality olive oil. In fact, color has nothing to do with olive oil quality. For this reason, professionals use blue glasses to taste oils (to avoid any chance that they might be influenced by the color). Depending on variables like the olive variety, where it's grown, climate and harvest timing, your olive oil can range from pale yellow to dark green.
6 - Most olive oil decanters will accelerate spoilage of olive oil. We have all seen TV chefs use cute bottles with pour tops to drizzle olive oil while they cook. But olive oil should be stored in a cool dark place in an air tight container. Usually, the original bottle (assuming it is dark glass) or tin is the best. If you buy in bulk (which you should do only if you will use the oil within 3 months), decant the oil into a small tinted glass bottle with a tightly fitting air-tight cap for daily use.
7 - Unfiltered olive oil has a shorter shelf life. Most extra virgin olive oil is filtered before it is bottled to remove olive particles. Some people feel that unfiltered olive oil has a better taste and thus, you can find unfiltered extra virgin olive oil in the market. When purchasing, look to see if the oil is unfiltered. If there is no indication, you can assume it has been filtered. If you buy unfiltered olive oil, look for the freshest bottles available (look for best by date, or if provided, harvest date) and use the bottle quickly after opening.
8 - You can and should cook with olive oil. There are persistent misconceptions that: olive oil, when heated, is unhealthy; olive oil will be ruined by heating it; or olive oil has too low of a smoke point to cook with. All of these are false. Olive oil has been shown to be one of the most stable cooking oils under high heat. The health benefits of olive oil, including the antioxidants and polyphenols, are preserved even when heated for 36 hours straight. The smoke point of olive oil is high enough for any at-home cooking. In sum, you can and should cook with EVOO. You may want to use an everyday EVOO for cooking, and use the best stuff for drizzling on after cooking or on salads.
9 - Olive oil is not just for Mediterranean food. We all know that olive oil is great on pasta, to pour it on salads and to dip bread into it, but olive oil and extra virgin olive oil work well in all cuisines. Olive oil can be used to prepare Asian food, Indian food, Mexican food, and American food.
10 - You can rest assured that your favorite olive oils are authentic and not adulterated. We have all seen the shocking stories on social media and news outlets large and small claiming that there is rampant olive oil fraud in the USA. This is simply untrue--misinformation disseminated for financial gain. How do we know? For more than 25 years, we have been testing olive oil samples from store shelves. Results from our testing of nearly 200 samples per year consistently show that the risk of finding oils in the supermarket that have been cut with a cheaper oil is extremely low: less than 2% of the U.S. market by our estimates. Don't want to take our word for it? The FDA did a study a few years ago, and the results were consistent with the NAOOA testing. The FDA randomly sampled 88 bottles of EVOO from supermarket shelves. The result? They did not find any cases of confirmed adulteration, and concluded that the occurrence rate of EVOO adulteration was "low." Read more on the topic of olive oil quality here.