Flavor Your Life

It’s one of the most common cooking staples across the globe, found in even the most sparsely populated pantries and in the hands of extraordinarily reluctant cooks. Olive oil’s ubiquity is owed in large part to its accessibility, as a vast number of brands have become available in recent years. Such a vast range of options should immediately suggest that not all oils are created equal, yet few shoppers pause to think about the origin of those original fruits before popping a sleek new bottle into their carts. For such a beloved, indispensable ingredient, there sure is still an overwhelming amount of misinformation out there.

Inspired by the Flavor Your Life campaign, supported by the European Union, Unaprol, and the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, the goal of debunking common misconceptions resonated with me in a powerful way. Moms Meet provided a bottle of Zucchi Extra Virgin Olive Oil to demonstrate the difference, but I’ve long been a devotee of quality European olive oils even without that delicious perk.

Let’s not beat around the olive tree, and get down to business. It’s time to talk about the top olive oil myths that need to be put to rest, once and for all:

You can’t fry with it.

Contrary to the single most frequently perpetuated false fact, olive oil has a 400-degree smoke point and can hold up beautifully (and tastefully) to the task of deep frying. Raising the heat beyond that temperature will only result in burnt food no matter the carrier, so keep a thermometer clipped to the pot, tend it carefully, and your taste buds will be rewarded.

Only extra-virgin will work in dressings.

Though there is a drop of truth in that statement, extra-virgin is merely a title bestowed to the very top grade of oil, cold pressed; extracted without heat or chemicals. That isn’t to say that other grades are of any lower quality. If anything, their flavor has a lower impact, which might actually be a welcome quality if your vinaigrette has bold seasonings that would otherwise obliterate the delicate nuances of a top grade oil. On the reverse side of the spectrum, this more neutral palate could be a benefit for baked goods where you don’t want such a savory note to shine though.

Kept in a dark, cool place, it should keep pretty much indefinitely.

Those volatile oils would beg to differ! Like any other fresh food, it should be refrigerated, and for no more than 6 – 8 months, ideally. It does go rancid at room temperature, although most people are so accustomed to using sub-par varieties, they may not realize the truly superlative, ephemeral nature of the genuine article.

Terroir is only for wine.

Extra-virgin is top shelf quality, but bottles bearing that designation manifest that grade through a wide spectrum of flavors. The greatest contributors to taste are the types of olive trees (cultivar), the region (which affects climate and soil) and time of harvest. Early in the harvest season, under-ripe fruits produce oils that are greener, more bitter and pungent. By contrast, olives harvested towards the end of season are over-ripe, resulting in a more mild, sweet, and buttery character. Other variables can yield oils that skew more nutty, peppery, grassy, floral, and beyond.

Considering the incredibly varied range of options being produced in all corners of the European continent, this is just the tip of the iceberg. A full education on this essential ingredient can be gleaned with just a dash of culinary curiosity, and a pinch of knowledge from the Flavor Your Life campaign. Eating better starts with cooking better, and there’s no substitute for quality components.

5 thoughts on “Flavor Your Life

  1. New blog theme, Hannah? I like it! Very bright and clean. I love the photo of the olives. I love them and their wonderful oil. Once when we were visiting my s-i-l in Provence, she told my husband (her brother) to try an olive from the tree. I didn’t have a chance to warn him and photo of his face would have been a best-seller!


    1. Thank you, I’m glad you noticed the new design- And in a good way! I figured that after 12 years, good old BitterSweet could use a little facelift.

      Oh boy, raw olives… Now that’s an experience I’m sure he won’t soon forget.

  2. Thanks for this post, Hannah!

    As a person with Italian origins, it used to (and kinda still does) bother me when people say “you shouldn’t fry with olive oil.” My grandparents and my parents and my relatives have been doing it for a while and we’re just fine *and* our food tastes awesome. I tend to use “crappy” (i.e., cheaper/lower-quality olive oil—the one that doesn’t taste strong) for frying, saving the “fancy” (i.e., flavourful and more expensive) olive oil for marinades and dressings.

    As for keeping the olive oil in the fridge, that, I had no clue about! I can’t see myself doing that anytime soon—but, then again, I tend to use up the oil before it could possibly go bad.

    Thanks for educating us all : )


    1. You’re far too kind! With your experience and background, I think you could give ME an education on olive oil.

      The only catch about keeping olive oil in the fridge is that it can sometimes solidify a bit from the cold, but it does liquefy again very quickly at room temperature. I like to stash it on the door with the other condiments, since that’s the “warmest” part of the fridge, too.

  3. We use olive oil with almost everything, cold meals, frying, salads, you name it! And thank you Costco for good quality product and price, however I recently came across a good article saying it’s rare finding actual olive oil that is not diluted… looking into how true that is :(

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