Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: How to shop for the best olive oil -- and then how to treat it once you're home.
For more about olive oil tips, visit the Filippo Berio Facebook page to check out finalists from the brand’s olive oil tip contest! Be sure to vote for the finalist you think should win a week of cooking classes in Lucca, Italy!
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What if we told you that your everyday cooking could be smarter? That the staples you use could be handled better -- or that you might not be choosing the best stuff in the first place?
Olive oil has become that thing that we reach for every time we're in the kitchen; it's as ubiquitous as salt and pepper. And just like there's all kinds of salt and all kinds of pepper, there's all kinds of olive oil -- and better ways to choose it, store it, and use it.
Here's how to get the most out of your olive oil -- and, in turn, make your everyday cooking the best it can be.
How to Choose It
Look for a harvest date or "best buy" date. Most companies put the date the olives are harvested on the bottle or include a date by which the oil should be bought. Since olive oil deteriorates over time, you want the harvest date that's the most recent -- or the "best buy" date that's the farthest away.
What's the grade? The highest grade of oil is extra virgin, which means that it's made from the first pressing of the olives. "Cold-pressed" is another term to look for; heat applied during the crushing process can change the oil's chemistry.
How to Store It
Heat, light, and air are your enemies. Any of those three, and your olive oil will go rancid quicker than it should. You want to keep your olive oil in a dark, cool place -- you can even wrap it in foil to help protect it. Fight the urge to keep it next to your stove; if you want it to last, put it away in a cupboard.
Remember that olive oil is perishable. If stored properly, a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil can last 20 months; pure or extra-light olive oil can last up to two years. To test if the oil is rancid, smell it; if it doesn't smell like olive oil anymore, throw it out.
How to Use it
Extra-virgin olive oil wants to be whisked into salad dressings, mixed into sauces, or drizzled over anything and everything. It's also great for lower-heat cooking, like sautéing or roasting; since it has a low smoke point, you should skip it when frying.
Extra-light tasting olive oil is great for baking; try Amanda's olive oil tart crust, and you'll be converted. In most cases, you can substitute 3/4 cup of olive oil for every 1 cup of butter; start experimenting!
Bright-green olio nuovo, which is the first olive oil off the press, is something to hunt for around the olive harvest -- and to use liberally and quickly. It's full of fine olive particles suspended in the oil, which makes it much more perishable than typical olive oil. This stuff should not be heated at all; eat it on bread, or salads, or drizzled onto vanilla ice cream with a touch of salt.
What are your olive oil tips? Let us know in the comments!
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).