Experts in healthy eating may disagree with the merits of carbs, coconut oil, and butter, but extra-virgin olive oil is about as controversial as leafy greens; virtually everyone feels pretty darn good about it.
But the thing here is: Not all olive oils are created equal. It turns out there’s plenty to know about picking and buying the best one. It’s a good idea to start by understanding what the term “extra-virgin” often associated with olive oil actually stands for. The key to virgin oil is that it is olive oil which is extracted from the olive only by mechanical means, without adding chemicals or heat.
It turns out that EVOO is also really the best kind of olive oil for your health. “Extra virgin is a term unique to olive oil, meaning that the oil was pressed cold from the first olive pressing, resulting in the purest, least acidic oil as well as the best-selling oil,” but that’s not the only thing to look for.
Read on for five key factors in selecting high-quality olive oil.
1 Type of Bottle
Olive oil’s three enemies are the sun, heat, and rain. If it’s extra virgin, you absolutely want to look for a dark bottle, because the dark bottle protects it from light. And a clear bottle is not a bad thing necessarily. Some of the finest olive oils in the world are sold in transparent bottles but can also be put inboxes. The package covers the oils from light, so if you find a bottle-and-box oil, you’ll want to make sure that you hold it in both containers. That also means it’s best to store your pantry of olive oil and not sit out in the kitchen where the sun can shine on it. Otherwise, it might just go rancid.
In addition, the North American Olive Oil Association suggests you check the bottle of olive oil or any signs of dripping or leaking, dust on the bottle, a broken or loose seal, or an orange tint on the oil — all signs that the quality of the oil has been compromised at some point in the manufacturing process.
2 Smell and Taste
If you get to test an olive oil before you buy it, do it. Here’s how to be a sommelier at EVOO. That’s what matters at the end of the day because just like if you buy food and you don’t like the taste, then what’s the right point? Like fresh olives it should smell and taste — grassy, green, and some varieties can taste fruity. If it is rancid, you will be more likely to taste crayon notes, or it will smell and taste like rancid walnuts.
If your olive oil has any of these characteristics, that means it’s been compromised in your life somehow. Either it was exposed to heat at some point, or it was old, or it was exposed to light,
And if you taste a peppery bite, bitterness, or even pungency, it’s a good thing because it’s one sign it phenols and polyphenols are abundant in the oil. Pungency is the peppery quality in the throat, and that and bitterness, both are characteristics of generally greener style oils and indicate the presence of phenols. And if you’re looking for a higher polyphenol oil, what you’ll find is bitter and peppery oils.
It combines extremely well with food, and some fruity, peppery notes can be realized too. It may have turned rancid if your EVOO has a sour off-taste, smells stinky, or has a bad-nutty scent. It can happen if the EVOO is exposed to air for too long or stored too long at warm temperatures.
3 Best by Date
Like everything else on the shelf, olive oil comes with a “best by” date, and the fresher the olive oil, the better, unlike when you’re looking for a decent wine. When a bottle does not have the best by date on it. By putting the best by date on a bottle, a company reflects that, under reasonable storage conditions, it will be an extra virgin before the end of the best by date. No date means risking purchasing olive oil that is less than new (and knows what else).
4 Check out the Type of Oil
Another reason you may opt for virgin or extra virgin olive oil (over regular olive oil or light olive oil) is that it means that the oil is not refined or processed as it is. When trying to find a refined vs. unrefined crude, what keywords to search for? If the bottle says “light degustation,” or just plain old “olive oil,” without the virgin or extra virgin, it is likely to be refined or processed.
5 Look into the Poly phenol Levels
The whole point of selecting a quality olive oil is getting one that packs the most healthy punch, right? So one way you can tell whether there are higher levels of polyphenol when you are drinking olive oil is to sample the oil on its own. Are you looking for the flavor profiles? Bitterness, soulful, and a pungent taste. It might sound counterintuitive, but if the oil has more of a bite to it, it’s usually a sign that polyphenols are present.
Look for clearly bitter oils, and pungent in flavor. And those are the ones which will have a higher content of phenols. But if you prefer an oil, it doesn’t have that bite or peppery taste, it doesn’t worry; it’s also healthy. It doesn’t mean it’s an oil of poorer quality, it may be a very fine and delicious oil it just doesn’t have the high count of polyphenols.
If you want to enjoy all of EVOO ‘s body-loving rewards, test the mark (and bottle) for sure. After all, like wine, finding the right bottle may take you a bit longer – but once you do it’s well worth it.