Olive oil is an absolute pantry essential, but a lot of people aren’t buying the good stuff. Much of the time, according to Epicurious, what you think of as pure olive oil is being diluted with other neutral oils, like soybean oil, altering the taste and the quality in every way. Recently-harvested olive oil can also be combined with olive oil from an old harvest, which means the quality won’t be as high and the shelf-life will be drastically shortened.
However, identifying an olive oil that’s worth your while is pretty easy, as long as you know what to look for. I had the chance to chat with California Olive Ranch’s oleologist Maia Hirschbein about what you should pay attention to the next time you buy olive oil.
First of all, take a look at the actual vessel the olive oil is stored in. Plastic bottles aren’t great. Ideally, you should choose an olive oil in a dark glass or metal container. Hirschbein says that both materials “protect the oil from the damaging effects of light exposure.” You should also make sure the vessel can be tightly sealed, as exposure to oxygen can degrade the oil as well.