Extra virgin olive oil is as much recommended for its flavor as for its health benefits. That said, there are a few important things to remember if you want to maximize the flavor and nutrition that you get from this versatile oil. Here are some of the dos and don’ts of cooking with extra virgin olive oil:
Do store extra virgin olive oil correctly.
Extra virgin olive oil is extremely susceptible to spoilage resulting from storage conditions. You will need to keep it away from light and heat, which will cause it to go rancid or lose its flavor and aroma quickly. Experts suggest decanting only as much olive oil as you need to cook a meal. Keep the rest of the extra virgin olive oil in a dark environment, preferably one that is outside of the kitchen.
Do use extra virgin olive oil quickly.
Extra virgin olive oil has a relatively short shelf life. Even if you store it in an ideal environment, you should still make an effort to use all of it within six months. Consume it within a month to enjoy it at its very best.
Do choose the freshest extra virgin olive oil available.
Both the nutritional benefits of extra virgin olive oil and its strong and distinctive flavor profile are heavily dependent on freshness. Ideally, you will want your extra virgin olive oil to be within 12 months of its harvest date, but up to 18 months is acceptable.
Do smell or taste olive oil before using it.
Because of its short shelf life and the fact that it is so dramatically affected by light and heat, you should ensure that it’s still good before you use it. It won’t make you sick, but it can give unpleasant flavors to your dish. Rancid extra virgin olive oil is often described as having a smell akin to crayons or Elmer’s Glue. It may also have a bitter taste.
Do pay attention to the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil.
One of the key characteristics of extra virgin olive oil is its inability to tolerate high temperatures. Its smoke point — the temperature at which it burns and smokes — is usually around the 320 to 350 mark, according to most reputable sources.
As a result, it is not suitable for cooking techniques that require high heat. Keep in mind that along with the smoke, burning the oil causes the generation of potentially carcinogenic toxins. It is best to use extra virgin olive oil only in dishes that do not require it to be heated.
Do use more extra virgin olive oil than you would other oils.
With most cooking oils, it will be best to use less to avoid making food too greasy or diluting flavors in the dish. Since extra virgin olive oil is usually used to provide flavor, you don’t have to be as concerned with overusing it. Feel free to drizzle it on liberally. This assumes that you are using higher-quality olive oil.
Don’t buy extra virgin olive oil in clear glass containers.
While cheaper olive oils are often sold in clear glass bottles, these containers are not good for preserving the oil. This goes back to the recommended storage methods above, clear glass bottles expose the oil to light, which will shorten its shelf life considerably. Opt for oil sold in tinted or opaque containers. At best, extra virgin olive oil sold in clear glass will have lost much of its flavor and aroma.