Olive Oil 101: Everything You Need to Know

Learn the best ways to shop for, store and coo
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pouring olive oil

pouring olive oil

Photo by: IFP


By Aaron Hutcherson

The third annual New York International Olive Oil Competition took place this month, where a panel of 15 expert tasters spent three days evaluating nearly 700 different olive oils.

Seven hundred olive oils? Yes. A lot of variations exist in the world of oil. The first kind that likely comes to mind is "extra virgin," which signifies more nutrients, less refinement and a more nuanced flavor. Many experts liken olive oil to wine in terms of its breadth of flavor. Olive oil can range from sweet to bitter or smooth to astringent, and it can have any combination of floral, fruity or grassy notes.

Here are a few things I learned at the competition that will help you shop for, store and cook smarter with oil:

  • If you're going to spend some money on the fancy stuff, don't heat it too much (or at all), so you can fully enjoy all of its wonderful nuances. Extra virgin olive oil is best for light sauteing, dressings and marinades.
  • Less expensive, regular olive oil is best for all of your general cooking needs (frying, baking, etc.) because of its higher smoking point.
  • Store your oil in a cool, dark place. On your windowsill is a definite no-no, whereas a cabinet away from the oven is likely the safest bet.
  • Use up a bottle within a few months of opening — the exposure to oxygen will cause the oil to degrade. Don’t make the mistake of trying to save the good stuff!
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