It is a fact of (foodie) life that not all olive oil is created equal. In fact, the New York Times published an article recently about the shocking state of the olive oil industry, and how many of the products on our grocery shelves are doctored with incorrect labelling and cut with other inferior oils (hello canola). You can read the article here.
Given this, it is important to have your wits about you when buying olive oil. Here are a few simple tips you can arm yourself with next time you find yourself in need of this delicious stuff.
1. Have more than one variety on hand
It is useful to have two kinds of olive oil in your pantry - one very high quality extra virgin olive oil to pour with (i.e. to use on salads and for dipping bread in), and one slightly cheaper version for cooking.
Keep in mind that olive oil should only be used to cook things in at a medium temperature. Olive oil doesn't work well as a high temp cooking oil, as the particles dilute and can turn rancid. For high temp frying, choose another oil, like coconut.
2. Check the origin
Read all labels carefully. Some bottles claim to be 100% Italian olive oil, but this may mean a variety of things. Perhaps the olives came from Italy, but the oil was made somewhere else. Or perhaps the olives weren't even grown in Italy, but are sent there to be packaged. Know your facts.
3. The bottle matters
Always go for a darker, more tinted bottle, over a light transparent one. The reason? Light exposure can cause the oil to spoil and thus lose flavour.
4. Look for cold pressed varieties
Just like your favourite juice, your olive oil should also be cold pressed. This essentially means that no heat was applied to the olives during the crushing process, which keeps the oil's chemistry intact.
5. You get what you pay for
Just like a fine wine, high quality olive oil will never, ever be really cheap. If one variety sticks out on the shelf as being much lower priced than the others, this should be a red flag alerting you not to buy it. As with anything in life, the good stuff costs more, so invest wisely.
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