Selecting olive oil can be like choosing the right wine. With wines, you may look at the grape type, the place of origin, or the color. When it comes to olive oil, people look at the color, bottle type, smell, or extra virgin versus light.
Studies have been conducted on the purity or “realness” of olive oil, to the point that consumers don’t always know if they’re buying a legit product. We know it’s healthy for us, but things can get confusing when it’s time to buy. Some EVOOs (extra virgin olive oil) are cut with other oils like sunflower or soy.
You don’t always know what you’re getting, but there is something you can use to separate the reals from the frauds.
It’s your senses! According to olive oil expert Katerina Mountanos, who was interviewed by mindbodygreen, you should start with the smell and then move on to taste. Surprisingly, color is not your guide in this matter. A quality olive oil should have a scent like grass, fruits, herbs, or plants.
Here’s the method that Mountanos suggests for doing a smell check:
- Pour a little bit of the oil into a small glass and cover the top with your hand.
- Swirl the oil around in the glass, making sure that your hand is warming it gently.
- Remove your hand and do a quick sniff.
You want to look for notes of almond, tomato, or fruits, or something peppery like arugula. No scent, a waxy scent, or vinegary scent are bad signs. You don’t have a real quality EVOO. But the ultimate test lies in tasting it.
Mountanos has a developed a science to tasting that involves swirling, inhaling, and coughing. If you’re game, here’s what to do:
Swirl it around and then take a small sip. Inhale a little bit of air through your lips, swish the oil around, and then swallow it. It should taste like plants. But according to Mountanos, the kicker is that you will cough after experiencing a bitter aftertaste in the back of your throat.
Do you? Those are the signs of a great quality, real-deal, extra virgin olive oil! She states that if the cough or other weird feeling in the throat don’t appear, you either have an oil that’s rancid or a low-quality impostor. There’s a chance it’s not even olive oil, let alone extra virgin.
Once you’ve found the perfect EVOO, you want to make sure it is stored in a cool, dark area where heat and light can’t destroy it. If you notice an odd or off-putting odor, dispose of it.
An old 2011 study by the University of California–Davis concluded that 70% of olive oils sold in the U.S. did not meet the standards for extra virgin. The samplings included oils from all over the world. Now, you have your own way to test!
Are you skeptical about olive oil quality? What tricks do you use when choosing a quality extra virgin olive oil? Would you do these quality tests?