Do You Really Need an Olive Oil Cruet?
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is a kitchen staple, and there isn't a day that goes by that we're not cooking with it, using it to make salad dressing, or drizzling it over avocado toast. If you've got your eye on (or already own!) a cruet that you use to store and serve olive oil from, there are a few things you should know. First, the three things that degrade olive oil and make it lose its freshness and antioxidants are light, heat, and air. "Those three things are the absolute kryptonite of EVOO," Salvatore Russo-Tiesi, president and CEO of Silician olive oil brand Bono, says. He explains that, unlike wine, extra virgin olive oil does not get better with age. "As soon as the product hits light, heat, and air, it degrades quickly and significantly. Therefore, the key to protecting and extending the life of your EVOO is to store it away from heat and light (perhaps in your cabinet or cupboard)."
Since transferring olive oil from its original container to a cruet involves exposing it to some light and air, in most cases it's best to use the bottle it comes in. "If the product comes in opaque packaging, it is best to leave it in there," Russo-Tiesi says. If you happen to purchase a bottle of olive oil that comes in a light or transparent bottle, he recommends wrapping it in aluminum foil. Olivia Roszkowski, chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, adds that the olive oil you buy at the supermarket is most likely packaged by the manufacturer in a container that helps to maintain freshness, so it is not necessary to transfer it to a new vessel.
If you've got your heart set on a cruet, it isn't all bad, and there are definitely some advantages to using one. For example, if having one makes you reach for your olive oil more frequently, Roszkowski encourages it. Think of olive oil like fruit juice (which it technically is): fresh is best. "At arm's-length, chances are that you will reach for your cruet more frequently," she says. "The textured ones or ones with handles provide a good grip when you need to add oil into a hot pan in a pinch." Additionally, if you tend to buy larger bottles of olive oil, a smaller cruet can help you be more precise in how much you pour out. "One advantage of using a cruet is that the pour is very effective, providing you with top-notch drizzle," Roszkowski says. "This gives you a great amount of control when roasting a pan of vegetables, dressing fresh greens for a salad, or using the oil as a topping for crusty bread."
When shopping for an olive oil cruet, keep in mind the three main things that degrade olive oil and make it go rancid: light, heat, and air. Russo-Tiesi recommends looking for something that offers an air-tight seal, is dark and opaque, and on the small side (under 16 fluid ounces). Since the cruet likely won't offer the same amount of protection as the original container it comes in, it's best to keep smaller amounts in the cruet so that it will be used up faster. "The secret of EVOO in general is fast rotation: buy small, consume quickly, then buy fresh again!" he says.
Roszkowski recommends choosing a cruet made from a material that doesn't conduct heat well (like glass or ceramic), with a thin spout to limit air exposure. She also advises buying a cruet that is easy to wash and dry completely before refilling it. "Consider a cruet that fits your hand well and is an appropriate size for frequency of use," she says. "For example, if you buy a larger bottle of oil, you can store it in a cool, dark place and transfer a more reasonable amount into your cruet that might be kept in a warmer part of your kitchen by the stove."