Studies have been conducted on the purity of olive oil to the point that consumers don’t always know if they’re purchasing a legit product. We know it’s good for us, but things can start to get confusing when it’s time to buy some. For example, some extra virgin olive oils are cut with other oils such as soy or sunflower.
You don’t always know what you’re getting, but there is a way to separate the reals from the frauds – your senses!
According to olive oil expert Katerina Mountanos, you should start with the smell and then move onto the taste. A quality olive oil should have a scent like fruits, grass, herbs, or plants.
Here’s what she suggests you should do:
- Pour a bit of the oil into a small glass and cover the top with your hand.
- Swirl the oil around in the glass, making sure that your hand is warming it gently.
- Remove your hand and have a quick sniff.
You’ll want to look for notes of tomato, almonds, fruits, or something peppery such as arugula. No smell, a waxy scent, and a vinegary scent are bad signs. However, the ultimate test lies in tasting it.
Mountanos has developed a science to tasting olive oil that involves a bit of swirling, inhaling, and coughing. If you’re down, here’s what to do:
- Swirl it around in the glass and then take a tiny sip.
- Inhale a little bit of air through your lips.
- Swish the oil around, and then swallow it.
It should taste like plants, but according to Mountanos, the kicker is that you will cough after experiencing a bitter aftertaste in the back of your throat. If you do, this is the sign of a great-quality, real-deal, extra virgin olive oil. She says that if the cough or other weird feeling in your throat doesn’t appear, you either have an oil that’s rancid or a low-quality imposter. There’s even a chance that it’s not even olive oil, let alone extra virgin.
Once you have found the perfect olive oil, you want to make sure that you store it in a cool, dark area where heat and light cannot destroy it. If you notice an off-putting odor, get rid of it.
A study from 2011 by the University of California-Davis concluded that 70% of olive oils sold in the U.S. did not meet the standards for being classified as extra virgin. Now you have your own way to test!