Properly storing your bottle is the best way to preserve the quality of this beloved ingredient.

By Kelly Vaughan
January 08, 2021
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With its yellow or green hue, balance of fruity and savory flavors, and versatility in nearly everything we cook, olive oil is a prized ingredient. Whether you're holding onto a large jug or are using a bottle of good-quality olive oil purchased at a boutique food store, it's important to properly store your olive oil to preserve its quality. "Olive oil's three natural enemies are light, heat, and air," says Aishwarya Iyer, founder and CEO of Brightland, a California-based olive oil company. That means storing it in a cool, dark place such as a pantry or kitchen cabinet and keeping it sealed with a cap or cork. But how can you tell if your olive oil is still good? Ahead, we're sharing a few easy ways to understand your oil.

olive oil and olive branches
Credit: Johnny Miller

What to Do When You First Open Olive Oil

Before pouring it into a skillet or rubbing it onto vegetables for roasting, the first thing you should always do with a bottle of olive oil is to taste it to make sure that it's still good. "Take a second to taste and think about what you're tasting. Fresh olive oil should taste herbaceous and grassy. Even if it has a fruity profile, it will still have this sense of tasting fresh versus something that tastes greasy," says Iyer.

A lively, sharp taste generally indicates that the olives were harvested early, which results in a very green, grassy tasting oil. "When you taste great olive oil, you'll feel a super peppery sensation at the back of your throat, which are two signs of quality and freshness. If olive oil has gone bad, it won't have those properties at all," Iyer explains.

The Importance of the Harvest Date

The harvest date is paramount, says Iyer. This tells consumers exactly when the olives were harvested; generally, olive oil has an 18-month shelf life from the time of harvest, so it's important to make note of that date. Olives are harvested once a year in the fall generally between the months of October through December. "The new harvest oil will be introduced in the winter so a bottle that was harvested in November 2020 would expire by May 2022," explains Iyer. If a bottle of olive oil lists the harvest date, choose the most recent date available to ensure that it will be good for many months to come. However, you should try to consume olive oil within three to four months of purchasing so that it's in its freshest state.

Signs That Olive Oil Has Gone Bad

Color and aroma are not reliable indicators that olive oil has expired; the best way to tell if olive oil has expired is by tasting it. If it doesn't taste strong and sharp or completely rancid, it's most likely past its peak. Though you will most likely not get sick from consuming expired olive oil and its health benefits are the same, rancid olive oil will not offer the same rich, fruity flavor that fresh olive oil does.

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