Today, I would like to talk about how to select which olive oil to purchase and use in your cooking. Extra virgin olive oil is the best grade of olive oil, so that’s a good term to look for. But, as with many elements of cooking, consumer marketing, and life – there are nuances.
Look on the bottom of the bottle to see where the oil is from. Extra virgin olive oil that is reputable will be grown, pressed, and bottled in the same country. Even if the oil was produced or packed in Italy, it might not be Italian oil that’s being used. The “Product of Italy” label alone does not guarantee the oil comes from Italy.
Check the back of the label for the harvest date. Olive oil can be stored for up to two years in a dark, room-temperature location, but it is not meant to age. Shipping times between countries increase the likelihood that the oil may degrade and contain fewer antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and other healthful ingredients. If there isn’t a harvest date listed on the bottle, it’s probably not the olive oil for you!
Search to make sure the olive oil is cold-pressed. Cold-pressed means that no heat above 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit was used in extracting the oil from the olives. When olive oil is cold-pressed, less oil is extracted, and what is extracted has higher-quality aromas and flavors. Also, if olive oil is labeled “pure” or “light”, it has been treated with heat and is not extra virgin.
Don’t be fooled by color. A richer color does not necessarily imply a higher-quality olive oil. Extra virgin olive oils can vary from deep green to very gold in appearance. This doesn’t affect quality at all. To be considered extra virgin, oils must pass taste tests (which reveal defects), and chemical tests (to ensure the correct amount of acidity).
Seek out seals of approval from the locality in which the oil was produced (the California Olive Oil Council, for example). The U.S. consistently produces high-quality olive oils, and the vast majority of olive oil produced in the U.S. comes from California. Olive oil with a California Olive Oil Council seal is likely to be a good choice.
At Cafe 21, Leyla and I use exclusively locally grown organic ingredients to ensure that your dining experience is both innovative and delicious, and also socially conscious and farm-to-table. When we use extra virgin olive oil and other ingredients in our cooking, we ensure that everything is of the highest quality. Join us for brunch, lunch, dinner, or happy hour to see how our commitment to serving you the finest, healthiest food and drink can transform your dining experience.