People are always asking me what type of olive oil to get. That’s a tough question. There are so many different type of oils; thousands actually. There are domestic oils, imported, olive oils made for dressings, and others made for every-day use. Let’s start with the basics.
Olive oil, in moderation is good for you. This type of oil is considered a monounsaturated fat. These oils have a myriad of health benefits. Olive oil raises HDL, (good cholesterol) and lowers LDL (bad cholesterol). Olive oil has many antioxidants, and has been proven to lower your chance of heart disease.
Olive oil has become very popular over the past ten years. Nowadays, it seems as if everyone has a brand to promote. You can get organic oils, cold pressed, extra virgin, etc. I recommend sticking to Extra Virgin olive oil. The term “Extra Virgin” means the first pressing of the olives. This is important for a few reasons. The first pressing of the raw olives produces the most pure product; it’s aromatic and unprocessed. If you’ve ever heard the term “cold-pressed,” this refers the manufacturing process. It means that the olives haven’t been heated in any way during the pressing and processing of the olives. If olive oil reaches temperatures above 75 degrees, the wholesomeness will suffer. Excessive heat breaks down the oil and can make it rancid. Always check the expiration date on the container and make sure it is still within its fresh date. Never buy olive oil in a plastic container! Plastic containers allow sunlight in, another element that can destroy the integrity of good olive oil. Purchase your olive oil in metal containers and store in a cool dry space. Make sure the space that you choose to store the oil doesn’t vary in temperature during the year by more than 10 degrees.
Olives are picked at different times in their maturity. If a particular olive field harvests their olives early, the first pressing will often have a spicy flavor with a green color. This type of oil is considered to have the most health benefits and is thought be the “purest.” Some harvesters may pick their olives later when the fruit is a bit more mature. These oils will most likely have a mild taste, and yellow color. Often, olive pickers will go back for one last harvest, picking the over-ripe olives. These oils will have an expired flavor, and be unpleasant to your palate. Olive oil producers will continue to press the olives after the oil from the first pressing is bottled. The residual oils will be bottled and used, but not labeled as “extra virgin.”
No matter how many recommendations I’ve made, I still encourage people to try as many olive oils as possible. Everyone’s taste is different, so palatability should be determined on an individual basis. Take some time and try a few different brands and buy what tastes best to you.
Chef Chuck Kerber