What to Look For When Buying Olive Oil?

What to Look For When Buying Olive Oil?

What to Consider When Buying Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the foods that enriches our meals with superior nutritional values while contributing to both taste and health. Consuming olive oil daily helps us obtain essential nutrients and is also a natural source of antioxidants. It is rich in vitamins E and K as well as minerals (Leach). So, what should we pay attention to when buying olive oil?

In this article where we discuss the common misconceptions about olive oil, we will provide brief information on what to consider when buying olive oil. We will touch upon a few easy tips that will help you make easier decisions about which olive oil to buy and how to use it in cooking.

1. The classification of olive oil types is determined by both chemical and sensory analysis. The sole percentage of free fatty acids is not sufficient to determine the class of olive oil.

According to the International Olive Council and many other authorities, extra virgin olive oil should have a free fatty acid content below 0.8%. However, this alone is not enough to be considered extra virgin olive oil. Additionally, extra virgin olive oil must meet certain chemical value ranges and be flawless in terms of sensory properties. Extra virgin olive oil should exhibit 3 fundamental positive attributes: fruitiness, bitterness, and pungency. Therefore, it's preferred for olive oil to leave a pleasant bitterness and pungency sensation in our mouths and throats. For more detailed information about olive oil varieties, be sure to check out our blog.

It is beneficial to know a few simple features to pay attention to when buying and testing olive oil. Let's briefly explain what sensory analysis means in olive oil.

High-quality extra virgin olive oil has three positive sensory characteristics: fruitiness, bitterness, and pungency.

  • Fruitiness is the characteristic aroma of the olive oil obtained depending on the type of olives.
  • Bitterness is described as the spicy taste of olive oil, which can be thought of as a rocket-like bitterness rather than a pepper-like one.
  • Pungency refers to the enjoyable burning sensation the oil leaves in the throat. Contrary to popular belief, it's a positive attribute that provides clues about its nutritional value and quality. However, it should not be confused with heartburn or stomach burning; the pungency mentioned here refers to the burning sensation in the throat.

We often encounter these sensory characteristics more in early harvest olive oils. While it's possible to detect these characteristics through professional tasting, it certainly requires a considerable amount of experience. Expert tasters and olive oil tasting panels classify extra virgin olive oils by tasting hundreds of oils annually.

When buying extra virgin olive oil, it's beneficial to ensure that it possesses fruitiness, bitterness, and pungency.

2. Extra virgin, virgin, and refined olive oil are different categories of olive oil, thus they have different preferred uses in the kitchen.

Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality olive oil you can buy. Olive oils vary in their free fatty acid content. Extra virgin olive oil has a free fatty acid content below 0.8%, while virgin olive oil is a type of olive oil produced with a free fatty acid content below 2.0%. As mentioned in the first point, in addition to the free fatty acid content, extra virgin olive oil should not have any defects in terms of sensory properties. Olive oil preserves its nutritional and flavor values at the highest level when produced without undergoing thermal or chemical processes, using only mechanical methods and cold pressing techniques.

Refined olive oil is a type of olive oil that has undergone chemical or thermal processing. Riviera olive oil, on the other hand, is obtained by mixing refined olive oil with extra virgin olive oil.

By paying attention to this classification when buying olive oil, you can make a more accurate decision about the type of olive oil you need.

3. Packaging choice and storage method are important for the shelf life and quality of olive oil. When buying olive oil, choosing your packaging according to your usage period and storage conditions ensures that you get the most benefit from your oil for the longest time possible.

The biggest enemies of olive oil are air, light, and heat. When extra virgin olive oil is produced with minimal exposure to air in modern mechanical pressing machines and stored in chrome tanks, its freshness period increases, and its rate of becoming stale decreases. Additionally, applying nitrogen minimizes contact with oxygen. Protective and airtight dark-colored or completely matte glass bottles and smart caps that ensure controlled pouring preserve your olive oil in the best possible way. Olive oil in plastic packaging is more permeable than glass, making it more susceptible to quick exposure to light and air, leading to spoilage. Similarly, olive oil bought in large cans should be divided into small packages after opening, sealed in a way that prevents air from entering, and only opened when needed. Olive oil exposed to light and air will quickly spoil and become stale under any conditions. The best way to protect olive oil is to store it in dark-colored or completely matte glass bottles that are airtight, in a dry and cool environment. This way, your olive oil will stay fresh for a longer period. One of the main factors to consider when buying olive oil is the material and size of the packaging.

4. The color of olive oil is not a quality criterion. 

Contrary to popular belief, the color of olive oil is not considered an indicator of quality. The color of high-quality extra virgin olive oil can vary from golden yellow to dark green in many different shades. The color of olive oil varies depending on factors such as harvest time and olive variety (Granitto).

5. Thanks to its high content of vitamin E, olive oil is a powerful antioxidant.

Olive oil is rich in beneficial fat components. It also contains monounsaturated fatty acids such as oleic acid and palmitoleic acid. Scientific research supports that these fatty acids reduce the risk of high blood pressure, balance cholesterol, and protect the body from diseases. Olive oil also helps maintain skin and hair health. Being a source of antioxidants, olive oil strengthens the immune system. Depending on the type of olive, harvesting date, processing, and storage methods, olive oil may have different nutritional values and polyphenol (antioxidant) levels.

6. The solidification of olive oil is not evidence of quality.

Any type of olive oil can solidify. When it dissolves, it returns to its original state, and nothing is lost from its quality. What matters is that it is stored in a cool place away from sunlight and air. The solidification of olive oil is related to the wax content in it, and the range of wax content is used as a criterion in determining the class of olive oil (IOC).

7. Although stone pressing may be nostalgic, modern pressing machines produced with today's technology are the most accurate option for olive oil production.

With advancing technology, new modern pressing machines that improve the quality of olive oil production have started to be used. State-of-the-art pressing machines squeeze the juice of olives without raising the temperature and minimize exposure to oxygen, allowing us to obtain the highest quality olive oil. Stone pressing, on the other hand, is an outdated method that can only be described as nostalgic and belongs to the past.

8. There is no harm in using olive oil for frying or pan cooking.

The burning point of olive oil is high, and it can be used for frying. Depending on the type of olive oil, when used at the right temperature and with the right cooking equipment, the burning point of extra virgin olive oil is 210°C (Gunnars). The important thing is not to exceed the smoking point, just like with any other oil, and to cook without producing smoke.


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