Olive oil is an indispensable ingredient in kitchens globally, especially in Mediterranean diets, where it has been used for generations due to its health benefits and incredible taste. With numerous brands and types of olive oil available in the market, picking the right one can be challenging. In this article, we'll provide some tips to help you choose the best quality olive oil for all your cooking and finishing needs.
Beware of False Claims: Olive Oils Marketed as "Cooking Oils" are Often of Low Quality and Not Suitable for Cooking
The distinction between cooking and finishing oil is nothing more than a clever marketing tactic used by suppliers to sell lower quality oils. In reality, there is no difference between the two. High-quality extra virgin olive oil is the perfect choice for both cooking and finishing, as it boasts a wealth of antioxidants and has the highest level of oxidative stability of any cooking oil, including avocado oil, butter and tallow. In fact, using high-quality extra virgin olive oil for cooking is safer than using a lower grade of olive oil.
One of the reasons people often consider smoke point a problem for olive oil is because it's widely misunderstood and misused. The notion of smoke point is a misleading and incomplete indicator of an oil's stability when exposed to heat. The smoke point only measures the temperature at which an oil begins to break down and produce smoke, but it fails to consider the oil's chemical composition and the potential presence of harmful compounds produced over time. Smoke point does not take into account the formation of harmful by-products that can occur when some oils (such as seed and vegetable oils) are heated, even before they reach their smoke point.
It's important to note that not all oils are created equal when it comes to cooking safety. For example, HNE (4-hydroxynonenal) is a harmful compound that is produced when linoleic acid, which is found in high quantities in oils such as canola oil, oxidizes. Despite having significantly higher smoke points than olive oil, these oils can still produce harmful compounds when exposed to heat, putting your health at risk. On the other hand, extra virgin olive oil is a safe and healthy option for cooking, as it is highly resistant to oxidation and contains a lower amount of linoleic acid, minimizing the risk of HNE formation. So, when it comes to cooking, it's essential to choose wisely.
Extra virgin olive oil is a premium oil that is abundant in monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants, making it highly resistant to oxidation. So, don't be swayed by the false distinction between cooking and finishing oil. It's nothing more than a marketing ploy.
The Time of Harvest Is Not a Significant Determinant of Olive Oil Quality
One of the most persistent myths about olive oil is that the time of harvest has a significant impact on its quality. However, this notion is simply not supported by evidence. In fact, olives picked at different times of the year can produce oil of equal quality.
Studies have shown that the quality of olive oil is not dependent on the time of harvest, but rather on a combination of factors such as the variety of the olive, the climate, soil type, and the harvesting and production methods. For example, a study published in Frontiers in Public Health found that the quality of olive oil is determined by factors such as the olive's ripeness, the presence of defects, and the overall health of the fruit.
Another study published in the Journal Scientiae Horticulturae also concluded that quality differences attributable to the time of harvest depending sensitively on the olive cultivar. The researchers found that the oil produced from olives harvested in October, November, and December had substantially different chemical and sensory characteristics depending on the varietal selected.
In conclusion, the time of harvest is not a reliable indicator of the quality of olive oil. The quality of olive oil is determined by a complex interplay of factors, and the time of harvest is just one of many variables that can influence the final product. It's important to choose high-quality olive oil based on its sensory and chemical characteristics, rather than relying on the time of harvest as a factor of quality.
Choose Single Origin Olive Oils Over Blends of Multiple Origins
The quality of blended olive oils, made from a mix of olive cultivars from multiple regions, is uncertain due to the challenges of controlling production from various regions. A study published in the European Food Research and Technology journal found that blended oils tend to have lower levels of antioxidants and higher levels of harmful compounds, such as increased acidity and polar compounds. To ensure you are getting a top-quality product, it's recommended to choose single-origin extra virgin olive oil.
Furthermore, single origin olive oils have a lower risk of being adulterated as farmers have a reputation to uphold. Unlike large corporations, they have a vested interest in producing high-quality oil. European trade standards also reflect this, as blends containing less than 50% olive oil cannot be marketed as pure olive oil. Opting for single origin extra virgin olive oil guarantees that you are purchasing a top-notch product of the highest quality.
Check for a Best Before Date
The label can also provide crucial information about the quality of olive oil. Look for a harvest date or best before date, which will indicate that you're getting fresh and high-quality oil. If there's no harvest or best before date on the label, it could be a sign of a lower-quality oil. According to a report by the USDA, fresh olive oil has a maximum shelf life of two years, so it's essential to choose an oil that is as close to the harvest date as possible.
Choose Only High-Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The finest and highest quality olive oil is extra virgin olive oil, which is regulated by the International Olive Council in Spain. This oil is made from pure, cold-pressed olives, has no chemical or solvents, and boasts a strong, fruity flavor. It's also rich in antioxidants and has many health benefits. According to a recent study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology by a team of scientists from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s nutrition department, extra virgin olive oil has been linked to improved heart health and reduced risk of heart disease.
Choose Your Olive Oil Supplier Wisely
Lastly, choose a reliable and trustworthy source for your olive oil. Buying from a family farm with a strong history and transparent background can give you peace of mind about the quality and authenticity of the product. On the other hand, buying from a brand backed by venture capital with unknown founders or no family involvement in the olive oil industry could result in a lower quality product. According to a report by the Olive Oil Times, large-scale commercial producers may use lower-quality oils and additives, so it's essential to choose a reliable source for your olive oil.
Choosing high-quality olive oil for your cooking and finishing needs is crucial. By following these tips, you can pick the best product for your needs and enjoy the difference that high-quality olive oil can bring to your life. At Selo, we are proud to offer the finest single origin extra virgin olive oil in Croatia. Our process ensures the highest quality nutritional value and authentic flavor, so choose Selo and taste the difference.