How to Tell if Your Extra Virgin Olive Oil is Real?

A lot has been said about how to test your olive oil to make sure it’s really extra virgin olive oil, but some of the methods that have been proposed may not really work. In this article, we’ll try to explain what we feel is the best way to find 100% EVOO. We’ll start with the least effective method and move on to the most effective. Before we get started, you might want to have a look at What ‘Extra Virgin Olive Oil’ means.
The Fridge Method
This method’s a bit of a myth. People have gotten mixed results with it and there are a number of reasons why. The idea here is that pure oleic acid freezes at a temperature 39??F and most refrigerators are set to a temperature of 37??F.
The immediate problem here is that olive oil can be anywhere from 55% to 83% oleic acid. So, if your olive oil is 45% of the other fatty acids that naturally occur in olives, your freezing point could be lower. Remember there are over 700 olive varietals and they will produced different oils with different qualities.
Not to mention that you could have changed your refrigerators settings, or your olive oil could be ‘winterized’.
Smoke Test
A lot of people don’t think you can deep fry with olive oil and that’s a myth because the belief is that EVOO has a low smoke point. That is not true. Really, really high quality olive oil will not smoke until it hits 410??F. The issue is that within the range of what can be considered Extra Virgin Olive Oil, your smoke point could be as low as 330??F. That’s a pretty big range and if the olive oil has been blended with refined canola oil, then the smoke point test won’t work. It will, however, help to identify oils that have been blended with Sunflower Oil which has a smoke point of about 225??F.
Dark Bottles
Light diminishes the quality of the olive oil and most producers who care about making high quality olive oil, don’t want to turn around and let it degrade while it sits in storage. So, this can be helpful. Unfortunately, you can put anything in a dark bottle, so it’s a good sign, but won’t tell you anything for sure.
The Burn Test
This test is a little bit better than the fridge test or checking for a dark bottle because you won’t get a false positive. EVOO should be able to keep an oil lamp burning. If you try this and it doesn’t stay lit, you definitely don’t have Extra Virgin Olive Oil. That’s about all you can say, though. A lot of oils burn, so keeping a wick lit doesn’t tell you that you definitely do have real oil, either.
Price
We’d put this in a tie with the burn test. If the extra virgin olive oil you’re buying is less than $15/liter, it’s very unlikely that it’s really olive oil.
Taste Test
If you taste a lot of olive oil, this could be a good indicator for you. The varietals all have different flavors, but if you have a favorite and know it’s qualities this should serve you well. In general, real olive oils finish with some pungency. It’s a result of high levels of polyphenols and a good sign that at a minimum, you have an olive oil that’s got some heart healthiness.
Sediment
Sediment is a pretty good sign for olive oil. It means the olive oil has not had a whole lot of processing. It’s not a sure-fire test, but as far as indicators go, it’s pretty rare to see it, and usually means you’re on the right track.
Harvest Date
If you can find a harvest date on the label, you’re also on the right track. Right now, the only people who do this tend to be the producers that do everything by hand. Could this all change next year? Yes, but for now it’s a good sign.
Awards
In our minds, one of the better signs that your olive oil is real is to buy olive oil that’s done well in International competitions. The oils undergo a lot of scrutiny and if it tastes right to the judges it’s a good sign it’s real.
California Olive Oil Council Certification
We should probably expand this to include other state certifications, but what we know best is the California Certification. It’s one of the strictest certifications and is a very good sign that your olive oil is real. In order to earn the seal, the oil must have a free acidity below 0.5 grams per 100 which is even tougher than the international standard of 0.8 grams per 100 and the producers have to submit their oils for chemical testing every year.

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