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Buying Great Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pick a Good Olive Oil
To start, only olive oil that is labeled extra virgin should be considered. Olive oil that is not extra virgin is made from rotten, bruised, or old fruit. Often it is made from the leftovers after EVOO has been made. Sometimes it is made washing it in hexane and refining it to remove off flavors. Does washing your oil in hexane sound healthy?
EVOO should be hand-picked and bottled in the same day. One taste of the oil can usually tell you if it is particularly bad, but it doesn't always tell you if it is any good.
Large brands, such as Bertoli, gather their olives from all over the Mediterranean and ship it in taker trucks to Italy where it can be bottled and labeled "Made in Italy." The lesson is that labels don't always mean much. Even so, Bertoli rejects the majority of oil that comes to its bottling plant. Where does the rejected oil go? It does down the street to another bottler.
There have been cases where olive oil companies have been caught blending EVOO with low grade oils or nut or seed oils. This is especially frightening if you have a nut allergy!
- A country of origin is not enough. Look for a specific region where it was grown and bottled.
- Avoid blended olive oils.
- Look for a label to tell you the specific kind of olives used to make it.
- Never buy an oil that claims to be "light" or "mild." Good oil is neither of those things.
- Don't worry about where an oil is made: Good oil can come from anywhere these days. Bad oil can, too.
Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Maybe you have heard of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Those diets that contain Mediterranean foods, which always contains lots of extra virgin olive oil, have been shown to reduce heart disease and help people live longer.
It might be hard to believe that oil (which is liquid fat) can help you live longer, but then again, that is a common theme. Omega-3s, after all, are fatty acids, and everyone knows that there is both good cholesterol and bad cholesterol.
Extra virgin olive oil contains fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory and can reduce heart disease. The key is to pick the right kind of olive oil. Some EVOOs are made by trustworthy manufacturers who really do pick the olives and bottle the oil the SAME DAY. Other companies ship their oil all over the world in taker ships and trucks, all the while diminishing the health benefits of the oil. What results are EVOOs that are widely different in health benefits.
How to Taste Olive Oil
There are fancy methods of tasting extra virgin olive oil that the pros use. For the home consumer, these methods are not necessary. Instead, pour a small amount of oil on a spoon and taste it by itself. What are you looking for?
Good Extra Virgin Olive Oil should be:
- Grassy, or earthy
- Never rancid
Finally, any good oil is going to leave a tingling or burning sensation in the back of your throat. If it doesn't, it doesn't have the health benefits you are looking for. To maximize the health benefits, drink a small amount every day.
There are some brands that are widely available that are quite good. My top recommendation is California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It is affordable and tastes like it should. It tastes like an olive oil that costs twice the price. Most importantly, it is available at any Target, Walmart, or grocery store. You don't have to buy online, but you can. Amazon sells this and many other excellent oils.
My final tip is to buy the freshest oil you can. Oil starts going bad the second it is bottled, so the newer the oil the better it will taste. Some oils will tell you when it was produced. Keep in mind that a super rare, expensive olive oil at your local grocer might not move very quickly, so you might be buying an older oil. If you are inclined to get something rare, you might try buying it from the source (some olive growers sell and ship directly) or you might try buying it online.
The Best Olive Oils on Amazon
Amazon has a large selection of olive oils, but not all are great. You might be wary of buying them through Amazon because returning a rancid olive oil would be a hassle. These two olive oils are reliable picks.
Baja Precious is a Mexican olive oil. Before you turn your nose up at the idea of a Mexican olive oil, note that the Baja California climate is great for some varieties of olives. The oil is shipped in a light plastic bottle that has a dispenser spout that springs up when you open it. Careful to screw the cap down fully or it will spring back up launching the cap out of your hand.
This is one of the more mild oils, but it has a definite olive taste. There was a slight plastic taste despite assurances from the label that they use a tasteless plastic that is better for the environment.
This is by far the best value in olive oil! It has as much genuine olive flavor as oils that cost nearly twice the price. There is a burn in the back of your throat that signifies a fresh olive oil that was pressed cold and bottled immediately. Add to this that a subscription through Amazon prime costs under $20 a liter, and you get an excellent value. This oil surpasses all others reviewed here except for, maybe, the Quattraciocci.