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Myth Busting: Olive Oil Fact vs. Fiction

"Cold pressed" "Smoke point" "Proper storage" "Aged oil" "Fridge test" "Health benefits"

Olive oil has certainly stood the test of time as a household staple, having just as many talking points as it does uses...but how familiar are you with it, really?

As modern consumers we expect (or, at least, hope) to have easily accessible, reliable information on the olive oil we are purchasing at our local store; unfortunately, as widely circulated as some information has become, not all of the information provided to us is as accurate as it seems. Even when it comes to widely-embraced public figures, at times we're given direction that (while likely good intentioned) can more frequently leave us scratching our heads in confusion or blindly discarding products we may now be unnecessarily wary of.

While this article in no way encompasses all of the "fact vs. fiction" of olive oil, it's meant to offer a bit more guidance on the topic. We strongly encourage you, our customers, to send us any questions you may have (on olive oil or balsamic vinegar), and we will do the best we can to answer them! Read on for a few of the most common myths we've come across, and for the myth-busting facts behind them.

Myth: You can judge the quality of an olive oil by it's color.

Popular way this myth has, recently, strengthened its roots:

In a semi-recent segment on her show, Rachel Ray is quoted as saying, "the deep green, super fruity, really expensive stuff - that's technically Extra Virgin Olive Oil because it hasn't been strained or purified in any way." 1

The truth behind the myth:

Most Extra Virgin Olive Oil (including the "Rachel Ray" brand) is strained through several filters to remove traces of pits and/or pulp. Filtering helps extend the shelf-life of the product and also reduces the amount of sediment in bottles. Color and/or price does not matter; Extra Virgin Olive Oil must meet specific chemical and sensory requirements to be considered true Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Why does the color of olive oil not matter? The color of Extra Virgin Olive Oil can vary from a pale yellow to an emerald green. Because of this variance, according to international standard, color is not viewed as an indicator for quality or grade.2  To prevent any bias, experts even use cobalt blue glasses3 for tasting, to conceal color during their sensory analysis. This practice, known as the  "tasting glass standard," was set in 1987 and has become the industry standard4.

Myth: "If you can see through it, it's fine for cooking (just not frying)."

Popular twist on this myth:

"If you can see through it, you can cook with it up to medium-high heat."

The truth behind the myth:

As with any oil you use to cook with, your best bet is to follow the designated smoke point for that specific oil. According to the International Olive Oil Council, olive oil has a smoke point of 410ºF (210°C). Thanks to the high smoke point, despite popular myth to the contrary, olive oil is quite perfect to use for frying.5 

Myth: "Heat diminishes any health properties, so you must use Olive Oil raw/cold."

The truth behind the myth:

When you stop into any of our locations and talk to us about our Olive Oil (particularly our Extra Virgin Olive Oil offerings) you may hear us talk about "polyphenols,"6 or antioxidants. Intrinsically healthy, Olive Oil is high in monosaturated fats and low in saturated fats - adding heat to Olive Oil does not change this.

While it's tough7 to find clear information on the effects of heat on polyphenols, previous scientific studies have shown that some - though not all - polyphenols may be destroyed when heat is applied.8 A more recent study, however, has shown that frying vegetables in Extra Virgin Olive Oil (fairly typical within a Mediterranean diet) can have a much better result nutritionally.9

Myth: You can do a"home test" to check the authenticity of your olive oil.

Popular way this myth has, recently, strengthened its roots:

In a semi-recent episode of his show Dr. Oz promoted the concept of a "fridge test."10 Essentially, according to this concept, you could put your olive oil in your refrigerator - if it solidified within a certain amount of time, it would mean the product was pure (and if it didn't solidify, the product was likely fraudulent).

Before you try this for yourself, we should caution you - the method for testing the authenticity of olive oil is not so simple. Here's the truth behind the myth:

This long-standing misconception started because of the chemical profiles in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Oils high in monounsaturated fats typically solidify below 39.2˚ F (4˚ C). Convexly, oils high in polyunsaturated fats typically solidify in temperatures below -22˚ F (-30˚ C). On the surface, based strictly on these principles, it would make sense to assume that an oil high in monounsaturated fat (like Extra Virgin Olive Oil) must be adulterated with a polyunsaturated fat to remain in a liquid state. 11

Even though Dr. Oz did say this method is "not 100 percent foolproof," the North American Olive Oil Association called the home test "completely false and misleading."12

Myth: Look for "first cold press" or "cold pressed" when buying olive oil.

The truth behind the myth:

" Fifty years ago, most oil was made in vertical presses: the olive paste was spread on mats (imagine a very tall paste sandwich) and pressed to make “first cold press” olive oil. The paste was then mixed with hot water or steam and pressed again to remove more oil. This "second pressing" was not as good; the heat had evaporated some of the delicate flavors and healthy components. "
- Antoinette Addison, VP Business Operations, Figueroa Farms 13

 “ Cold-Pressed is an outdated production term, now used for marketing purposes and largely devoid of meaning. Until a half-century ago, when oil was made with hydraulic presses, after the first pressing had removed the best oil, the nearly spent paste was drenched with hot water (as saint Sanctulus of Norcia taught) and pressed again, yielding a second-press oil of inferior quality. Nowadays, extra virgin olive oil is ‘first-pressed’ and ‘cold-pressed’ almost by definition. (EU Regulations state that ‘cold-pressed’ can be used only when the olive paste is kept at or below 27 degrees Celsius during the malaxing process-a level respected by nearly all serious producers - and when the oil is actually made with a press, nowadays a rare occurrence.)”
- Tom Mueller, author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil 14

Myth: Olive Oil gets better with age and can be kept right on the counter.

The truth behind the myth (this one is a bit tricky):

Olive Oil (all oils, really) deteriorate over time. We strongly recommend to use your Olive Oil as soon possible, but definitely within a year of acquiring it.

To maintain its quality, we suggest keeping your bottle of Olive Oil in a cool, dark place. Much like a vampire, Olive Oil may disintegrate more rapidly with continued exposure to sunlight (and heat, too).

*As a way to ensure you, our customers, are receiving a quality product, we also use dark glass bottles for our products.


1 "Rachael Ray Answers Facebook Question: What is EVOO?" Rachael Ray Show. Rachael Ray Show, 06 Oct. 2016. Web. 13 Aug. 2017. <https://www.rachaelrayshow.com/tips/23579_rachael_ray_evoo_extra_virgin_olive_oil/>.

2 "Trade Standard Applying to Olive Oil And Olive-Pomace Oils." International Olive Council, Nov. 2012. Web. 13 Aug. 2017. <https://1.oliveoiltimes.com/library/ioc-olive-oil-standard.pdf>.

3 "Olive Oil Tasting Glasses." NYIOOC. Web. 13 Aug. 2017. <https://nyoliveoil.com/product/olive-oil-tasting-glass/>.

4 "Sensory Analysis of Olive Oil Standard Glass For Olive Oil Tasting." Oliveoiltimes.com. International Olive Council, Sept. 2007. Web. 13 Aug. 2017. <https://1.oliveoiltimes.com/library/glass-standard.pdf>.

5 "Frying with olive oil." International Olive Council. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2017. <http://www.internationaloliveoil.org/estaticos/view/85-frying-with-olive-oil>.

6 "Polyphenol." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2017. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyphenol>.

7 Bell, Angela. "Dispelling the Myths of Frying with Olive Oil." Olive Oil Times. N.p., 25 Jan. 2016. Web. 13 Aug. 2017.

8 Carrasco-Pancorbo, A., L. Cerretani, A. Bendini, A. Segura-Carretero, G. Lercker, and A. Fernández-Gutiérrez. "Evaluation of the influence of thermal oxidation on the phenolic composition and on the antioxidant activity of extra-virgin olive oils." Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 13 June 2007. Web. 13 Aug. 2017. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17497881>.

9 Selby, Gaynor. "Vegetables Fried in Extra Virgin Olive Oil More Nutritionally Beneficial than Boiled." Olive Oil Times. N.p., 26 Sept. 2015. Web. 13 Aug. 2017. <https://www.oliveoiltimes.com/olive-oil-health-news/vegetables-fried-in-extra-virgin-olive-oil/48897>.

10 "Dr. Oz Investigates Supermarket Food Fraud, Pt 4." The Dr. Oz Show. N.p., Nov. 2013. Web. 13 Aug. 2017. <http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/dr-oz-investigates-supermarket-food-fraud-pt-4>.

11 Gawel, Richard. "The "Home Fridge Test" for Authenticity of Extra Virgin Olive Oil – The Reasons why it doesn't work." Slick Extra Virgin. N.p., 28 Aug. 2010. Web. 13 Aug. 2017. <http://www.aromadictionary.com/EVOO_blog/?p=550>.

12 Flagg, Nancy. "Olive Oil Fridge Test? Don't Count On It." Olive Oil Times. N.p., 15 Feb. 2013. Web. 13 Aug. 2017. <https://www.oliveoiltimes.com/olive-oil-basics/olive-oil-fridge-test/32830>.

13 Addison, Antoinette. “First Cold Press is an Obsolete Term. It's a FACT.” First Cold Press is an Obsolete Term. It's a FACT. | The Olive Oil Source, The Olive Oil Source, 1 Sept. 2010, www.oliveoilsource.com/article/first-cold-press-obsolete-term-it%E2%80%99s-fact. Accessed 14 Aug. 2017.

14 Mueller, Tom. "Truth in Olive Oil." Truth in Olive Oil. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2017. <http://www.truthinoliveoil.com/>.

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