This past week, I decided to do a little research into an ingredient that I use every single day — olive oil. Why do I use it every day? Well aside from the fact that I cook every day, I generally prefer the taste of olive oil, the supposed health benefits, and as a college student, I’m not about to spend what it would cost for me to use butter for my every cooking need. Olive oil has a medium-high smoking point, so it works for just about every recipe that I make, and a fairly neutral flavor based on the oil that you choose to purchase.
So what should you look for when buying olive oil? From most sources I found, the first piece of advice was to only buy extra virgin olive oil (which we all know would make Rachael Ray very proud). EVOO is held to higher standards than non-extra virgin olive oils, in regards to purity and the fact that the oil must be cold pressed. This ensures there aren’t chemical additives to express the oil from the olives or other things you wouldn’t want to be done with your precious oil.
Take a close look at the bottle before you buy. Olive oil is sensitive to light, heat, and oxygen so your best bet will be a glass bottle with a dark green or brown tint to it to block out sunlight.
How do you ensure the oil is fresh? Olive oils all have a best by date, and most also include a harvest date. According to Carla Lalli Music, a Food Director at Bon Appétit, you really want to use your olive oil within a year of harvest, so her trick is to subtract a year from the best by date as those are usually 2–2.5 years past harvest. Music also suggests to only buy the amount of olive oil that you can use within a month after opening, so stray away from huge Coscto quantities of oil unless you’re doing some serious cooking. As a best practice, she says you can buy multiple bottles of oil, which can keep for a year unopened, but try to make your way through an open bottle in about 30 days. You can hear more from Music on the Bon Appétit podcast here.
Overall, you want to pay around $12 per liter for everyday olive oil, according to both BA and America’s Test Kitchen. I personally use California Olive Ranch Everyday Olive Oil, which both sources recommended.
Ideally, keep your olive oil away from the stove (annoying I know), and in a dark place to keep it lasting longer. There’s a wide variety of flavors when it comes to olive oil, from buttery neutral, to grassy and vegetal, to fruit-forward varieties. It’s all about finding what you like for your uses, and if you get really involved, you can start investing in the higher-end finishing oils!