Ingredients: all about olive oil

I am using olive oil for all my bread recipes. It is a great substitute for butter or sunflower oil. Many times there is a confusion what is extra virgin olive oil, how should one cook with it, which one to buy and so no ….  So, I have decided to put together a quick overview that should answer all these questions.

The overview is based on my knowledge and experience. I worked as a buyer for one of the major retail chains. I have had an opportunity to buying private brand olive oil, attend major trade shows, and visit biggest producers in Spain, Italy and Greece.

So let’s begin.

What is olive oil? To put quite complex story in short:


Thus, olives are collected from the trees and brought to the mills. Depending on many factors (kind of olives, weather that year and so on) crushed olives will yield oil that has different free acidity, flavor and odor. These factors help to determine:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – excellent flavor and odor and free fatty acid content of not more than 0.8 g per 100 g (0.8%);
  • Virgin Olive Oil – reasonably good flavor and odor and free fatty acid content of not more than 2 g per 100 g (2%)

Oil that does not fall under these two categories is refined (made in an industrial process using heat and chemicals) and then mixed with virgin olive oil to add back some flavor. This product is known as olive oil, pure olive oil, classic olive oil an so on. Refined olive oil still is considered a healthier option than seed oils like canola or sunflower oil.


How to buy olive oil?  Check best by date which should be at least a year to go or look for “harvest date” – it should be within the last year.

How to store olive oil? It truly depends on the quality of olive oil, but best extra virgin oils in a dark glass bottle (kept in cool place) should be good for up to two years. Still, once the bottle is opened and provided kept away from direct light and heat should be used within max two months.

Tip: if you do not use a lot of olive oil – buy smaller bottles, if you have bottle that has been opened for quite a while use it up for your skin or leather products (

How to cook with olive oil? Olive oil can be use for pretty much any kind of cooking. One things to keep in mind is  that extra virgin looses its flavor when heated. Thus, for cooking purpose more “economical” option is to use pure/classic olive oil (refined one).

Tip: have cooking oil and extra virgin olive oil in your kitchen

Where to buy olive oil in U.S.? My personal favorite is Trader Joe’s. They have  a great selection of olive oils for affordable price. I have checked many retailers in San Diego (Walmart, Vons, Costco, Whole Foods), but the best selection and price preposition still is at Trade Joe’s.


My personal favorites are:

  • Imported olive oil (1L for $5.99) – it is a refined oil that is great for cooking, it is in transparent glass bottle, but as it is not an extra virgin it is acceptable
  • 100% Italian organic extra virgin (500ml for $5.99) – has more pronounced fruit flavors, pungency and pepperiness, great for salads, marinades, tapenade and so on


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