Rich with benefits from heart health to skincare, olive oil is crowned as one of the healthiest fats around, but not every bottle was created equal.
What is extra virgin olive oil really?
Extra virgin olive oil is the oil that is first extracted from the process of cold-pressing olives. It is considered one of the highest quality olive oils out there. In fact, there are very specific requirements in order for an oil to be labeled as “extra virgin”. That is why we ensure that each of our Little Shop olive oils obtains an ultra-premium certification. We take all the guesswork out of it for you!
Because extra virgin olive oil is not treated with chemicals or heat, it is rich in the natural vitamins and minerals that are found in olives, such as oleic and linoleic acids, polyphenols, and vitamins E and K. What sets the olive oil apart from others is the distinct pepper finish that comes from high levels of chlorophyll and polyphenols.
Now, it may seem simple enough to go to your local grocery store and pick out the first bottle of extra virgin olive oil you see. However, a good premium extra virgin olive oil is like your favorite bottle of wine: It takes some time to find the choice that is perfect for you, but once you do, you won’t remember life before it.
Here are three must-know tips to help you find your one true pairing:
- Check the bottle.
The most important element of choosing a good premium extra virgin olive oil is looking for the right type of bottle. Find darker, glass bottles or opaque glass bottles.
While there are some gorgeous glass bottles out there that are bright and transparent, premium oils need to be protected the right way. According to Joseph Profaci, executive director of The North American Olive Oil Association, “The three enemies of olive oil are light, heat, and air.”
This also means being careful of where you store your olive oil in your pantry!
Unlike wine, olive oil does not age well. We recommend using your premium extra virgin olive oil within 18 months of its harvest date. Legitimate, high-quality olive oil will have some version of ‘best by’, ‘pressed on’, or ‘harvest date’ clearly displayed. All of our extra virgin olive oils note the Crush Date; the more recent the date, the more full it will taste.
- Shop at the right place.
Sure, the store in town has some olive oil for you to grab while you are shopping for all your other groceries, but are you really getting a quality product? Although our new normal may not allow it right now, it is always a good idea to shop at places that allow taste testing so you get the opportunity to experience your olive oil before buying it. Olive oil mills, gourmet food stores, farmer's markets, and stores that specialize in olive oil (like ours!) typically allow in-store taste testing.
Tasting the oil on its own is actually a great way to get an understanding of the polyphenol levels. Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil often has a slightly bitter aftertaste that reaches the back of your throat. That pepperiness is also an indication of how rich the oil is in antioxidants, like squalene. However, there are milder olive oils that can have a softer flavor profile as well.
Tasting the oil ahead of time is a great way to ensure it has the flavor you desire. As a premium olive oil store, The Little Shop offers samples of all displayed flavors of our extra virgin olive oil. After all, no matter what the experts say, you should purchase olive oil with a taste you enjoy!
If you are unable to taste your olive oil before purchasing, look to the bottle label for more information. Each of the premium olive oils listed on our site notes the flavor profile (an organoleptic taste panel assessment), chemical makeup, and intensity of taste for your reference when shopping.
- Use your olive oil!
There is a popular opinion that premium extra virgin olive oil should not be used in cooking. However, a study by the Olive Wellness Institute showed that extra-virgin olive oil retained most of its antioxidant properties when it was heated and used to cook in cooking situations. In fact, it is perfectly stable up to about 420ºF. (Above this, it tends to lose its beneficial properties, so consider using another oil for deep frying.)
The best way to determine if you’ve found the extra virgin olive oil of your dreams is to use it! Add it to your appetizers, cook with it for your meals, or even get a little fancy and splash it into your cocktails (yes, it’s a thing!).
Don’t keep your extra virgin olive oil on the shelf only to use in salad dressings. Let it shine! Get cooking with some more recipe ideas on our blog or shop our selection of premium oils to discover ‘olive’ your love for extra virgin olive oil.