Over the last several years, olive oil has found its way into the mainstream. Once an ingredient mostly associated with Mediterranean cooking, this healthy and tasty ingredient is now a staple in many kitchens.
Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants, consumption of olive oil is linked with a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease. But we're not here to sell you on the health benefits of olive oil. In fact, we're going to try to get you to stop buying olive oil -- the kind you find on the shelves at a typical supermarket. If you're buying your olive oil at a chain supermarket, there are a few potential pitfalls:
Price vs. Quality
Most store bought olive oil is overpriced for the quality you're getting. It's not uncommon to pay $10 for a 375ml bottle of mediocre olive oil. More on this below.
Selling olive oil that has blended or adulterated is an underhanded trick pulled by some bottlers. While a bottle may be labeled as "Olive Oil" or "Extra Virgin Olive Oil", you might find in small print that what you are buying is a mix of oils including olive oil. Price is usually the biggest giveaway here. If you find a bottle of olive oil that is priced exceptionally low, it's probably too good to be true.
Packaging and Lighting
Olive oil has a shelf life of about a year under ideal conditions. Most olive oils found in supermarkets are sold in clear glass or plastic bottles and are being bombarded by fluorescent lighting 24/7. It's a bad combination that leads to a shorter shelf life.
What You Should Do Instead
We're big proponents of buying olive oil in bulk. The benefits are many. Stores like Whole Foods are starting to offer a variety of high-quality olive oils sold in bulk at very reasonable prices. At $5-7/lb, you're getting a superior product at a much better price. Most bulk oils are stored in metal canisters, preventing exposure to light and extending the oil's shelf life. Bulk oils are also being restocked on a regular basis, so what you're buying is most likely a lot fresher than bottles sitting on a shelf.
An added benefit of buying bulk is that you get to try before you buy in many cases. If freshness or quantity is a concern, going bulk means you can buy in smaller quantities, more frequently. At stores like Whole Foods, you can even bring in your own containers. Give it a try and let us know what you think!