Olive oil is a flavorful and aromatic cooking oil with a host of health benefits. While it is true that you can use olive oil with various ingredients and cooking styles, there are a few things that you should keep in mind to get the best results. Here are some dos and don’ts of cooking with olive oil.
Do keep smoke points in mind when cooking with olive oil.
Each type of olive oil has a smoke point, which is the temperature at which heated olive oil starts to burn and put out smoke. That temperature will differ depending on how much processing olive oil has undergone.
For example, high quality extra virgin olive oil is the least processed olive oil and its smoke point is very low. Usually, it is suggested that you not heat extra virgin olive oil above 375 degrees Fahrenheit, but you should stay below 350 if you want to be careful. Extra light olive oil will be the most processed kind and has a high smoke point. You can usually cook at temperatures well above 450 with it.
It is recommended that you use a deep-fry thermometer when frying with olive oil so that you can keep an eye on the temperature. Heat your oil slowly to make it easier to avoid reaching the smoke point.
Do use olive oil that has been stored correctly.
Olive oil is a perishable product. You will need to store it correctly to maximize its shelf life. To keep it from going rancid, store it away from light, air and high temperatures. Experts recommend keeping olive oil in opaque, airtight bottles instead of clear glass. Avoid buying olive oil in clear glass bottles. Bottles containing olive oil should be kept in a dark cupboard away from heat sources in the kitchen.
Do save extra virgin olive oil in uncooked preparations.
As long as you keep its relatively low smoke point in mind, extra virgin olive oil is perfectly fine for cooking. That said, it is not ideal and there are better ways to use it. Using it without applying any heat will not only preserve the compounds responsible for its extensive health benefits but will also maintain its complex and rich flavor profile.
Extra virgin olive oil is especially well-suited to work as a finishing oil or condiment. Drizzle it over Italian pasta sauces or Lebanese hummus right before serving or use it as a dipping sauce for bread. Extra virgin olive oil is also great in vinaigrettes.
Do pay attention to the price.
Quality olive oil — oil that is fresher and more flavorful — will usually be expensive. It is best to reserve that oil for serving with better ingredients. Use the lower quality olive oil for daily cooking needs.
Do pay attention to the flavor of ingredients when cooking with olive oil.
Not all ingredients pair well with a flavorful oil. The distinctive grassy quality of fresh extra virgin olive oil may overpower delicate flavors in some dishes or clash with strong ones in others.
Don’t cook with olive oil that has been stored for too long.
Even if you store it under ideal conditions, olive oil will lose its benefits if you keep it for long enough. You can store an unopened bottle for up to 18 months beyond its harvest date. If it has been opened, it is best to use it up within six months of the opening date. Ideally, you should use it within the first four weeks.