Ah, olive oil. It is truly one of nature’s most marvelous foods, delicious, nutritious, and wonderful in a whole host of different dishes. You can use it as the basis of salad vinaigrette dressing; pour a little on a side plate and dip your bread in, or heat it for frying fish to a golden brown. Yes, there is just about nothing better than olive oil, whether you dress it up with spices and seasoning or have it plain straight from the bottle. Olive oil truly is “nature’s nectar!”
Just as good, and as important, as its wonderful flavor are the health benefits that olive oil offers. It’s packed with antioxidants to help fight disease and cancer, and it lowers cholesterol levels and helps keep you in fighting trim.
Keeping olive oil fresh is vital for preserving its rich taste and excellent health benefits. Do you ever wonder whether you’re storing olive oil properly? If you do, or if your olive oil tastes funny and you’re not sure why this is the post for you!
Some folks like leaving their olive oil in a pretty bottle out on the counter for all to see. Others prefer storing it on a shelf in the cupboard, pulling it out only at mealtimes. How you store olive oil affects its flavor, so keeping it in a cool, dark environment is always best.
No matter what kind of olive oil you buy, whether it’s a fancy extra virgin or a plain, “regular” olive oil, it’s essential that you store it properly. And that’s what this post is about: explaining how and where you should store your olive oil.
How Hot Is Too Hot For Storage?
Storing your olive oil at the proper temperature is essential. Experts say that the wrong temperature – too hot or too cold – can ruin olive oil’s vibrant, rich taste. Never store olive oil in a place that’s too hot, because oxidation occurs and the oil separates.
Think of it this way: the warmer your pantry or cupboard, the sooner your olive oil will degrade, and you don’t want that, right? Olive oil can quickly turn rancid if it’s left on a too-hot shelf. Culinary professionals agree that the ideal temperature range for storing olive oil is between 15 and 25 degrees, Celsius. A room kept at about 68 degrees, (20 degrees Celsius) is good for storing olive oil, not only to preserve its flavor but also to lengthen its shelf life.
The conclusion is obvious: a cool, dry place with no light pouring in (we’ll get to light’s impact in just a moment!) is the perfect spot for storing your olive oil!
Now you know that heat isn’t good for olive oil, you may be surprised to learn that cold isn’t good for it either. Don’t place your bottle of oil in the fridge, because doing so can cause it to crystallize. You’ll see little bits called esters when you open a cold container of oil, and although they dissipate once it gets to room temperature, it’s just not good for the oil. Fluctuations in temperature, from one end to the other – too warm or too cold – make the olive oil break down.
How Oxygen Affects Olive Oil
As soon as you open a bottle of olive oil, air rushes in. The antioxidants contained in it fight against the negative effects of air exposure, but the sooner you close up the lid again, the better! The more air gets in, the longer the olive oil is exposed, the faster rancidity sets in and your oil begins breaking down. A completely sealed lid is crucial to storing olive oil properly, so make sure that the lid is on tight!
Studies have shown that even a slightly loose lid or cap allows air into the bottle or jar. Researchers have found that as soon as that happens, and with every exposure to air the olive oil undergoes, the faster it degrades and the flavor turns.
We know you’re prepping meals in a hurry, and it’s easy to forget how important it is to get the lid on while you’re cooking, instead of right before putting the olive oil back on the pantry shelf. But remember: with every exposure to air, your oil is breaking down and starting to turn rancid. That’s why you’ve got to put the lid back on as quickly as you can, as soon as you’ve measured out the oil needed for whatever recipe you’re making. To be sure its flavor, and its health benefits, remain as intact as possible.
Furthermore, the bigger the bottle, the more you open it, the more air gets to it over time. Your olive oil may become rancid even before you’ve finished the container, so buy amounts – large or small – that suit your consumption habits. Professional chefs and other culinary experts suggest using up your oil within one month, two at the most; otherwise, you’re likely buying too big a bottle!
Keep Out The Light
As you already may know, olive oil is simply an unprocessed product from a plant, and that makes it vulnerable to all the elements, including light.
It’s filled with antioxidants and chlorophyll, which you may recall from science class in school is the chemical that helps plants during photosynthesis.
And the greener the oil, the more chlorophyll it contains. However, when oil is subjected to light, a chemical reaction known as photo-oxidation happens, and that impairs the oil’s quality and taste.
Researchers have found that light exposure negates antioxidants in olive oil. It also hastens rancidity – and before you know it your olive oil is “off.” It doesn’t last nearly as long as olive oil stored in a dark pantry or cupboard.
Here’s one way you can ensure your stored olive oil remains fresh – put a little into a stainless steel container for daily use, and leave the rest in the tightly sealed bottle on the pantry shelf. This keeps the bulk of the oil in a cool, dark place, but also lets you have a bit on hand to use whenever you need it. Stainless steel doesn’t let light in, of course, but it also doesn’t transfer metallic tastes to your oil – a significant bonus.
Plastic containers are alright, but only if you use a lot of oil throughout the week. Just don’t forget to put whatever container you use in a dark place, perhaps beside the glass bottle on the pantry shelf. Any kind of light impacts your olive oil, so darkness is essential!
Does Olive Oil Expire?
Yes, indeed it can! It’s not like wine, which everyone knows ages well, and in fact, improves the longer it sits in the cellar. Olive oils last from one year to 18 months, tops, from the moment they’re bottled. If you buy extra virgin olive oil you should use it up within a year, at the outset. All olive oils taste best within the first couple or three months after being made because as they age the oil breaks down. Acidity levels rise, the taste turns and it becomes less than inviting – it can taste downright awful.
Lower grades generally have a shorter life span than top-notch, extra virgin olive oil simply because the acidity level starts out higher right from the moment the oils are bottled. Semi-fine olives have more oleic acid than extra virgin olive oil, so it may turn in just a few months. In fact, it may develop a taste that is totally off-putting fairly quickly, particularly if you don’t store your olive oil correctly.
But there’s more at stake than flavor – science shows that the wonderful nutrients in olive oil, those qualities that earn it so much global praise from dietitians and researchers everywhere – evaporate over time. In fact, after just one year, extra virgin olive oil loses almost all its healing properties, even when it’s stored under ideal conditions. In one study, the Vitamin E content barely registered, while the beta carotene had vanished. Other nutrients were either gone, too, or badly diminished.
So, What Does All That Tell Us?
It tells us that if you want your olive oil to stay fresh, flavorful, and delicious, you’ve got to store it correctly!
That means protecting it from heat, air, and light. A dark, cool shelf in the pantry or kitchen cupboard is the ideal place to store olive oil. Doing that will ensure the olive oil you buy, whether it’s once a week or every other month, lasts with a rich, wonderful taste in every nutritious mouthful. Good to the last drop – that’s what you’ll taste if you store your olive oil correctly. All delicious, all the time, from the first spoonful to the final one!