Healthy Eating

After fresh ideas for meals that are healthy but still pack a flavour punch? We've got salads and vegetable-packed bowls to soups and light desserts.

Subscribe to Gourmet

Subscribe to Australian Gourmet Traveller before 24th July, 2017 and receive 6 issues for only $35!

Gourmet digital

Subscribe to Gourmet Traveller for your iPad or Android tablet.

A definitive guide to olive oil

From frying to finishing, olive oil has proved itself indispensable. In this drill-down guide, we reveal the trade tricks behind your pantry’s number one staple: liquid gold.

Label decoding

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) refers to the juice mechanically extracted from recently harvested, high-quality olives. The go-to term "cold pressed" is essentially obsolete in modern extraction: "Extra-virgin oil is now almost exclusively teased from the olive using the natural 'oil is lighter than water' principle," says Richard Gawel, a celebrated oil tester and presiding judge at the Australian National Extra Virgin Olive Oil shows. Cold extracted is a more accurate description.

Olive oil refers to the oily liquid extracted from low-grade olives that has been chemically refined to boost marketability. The result is a cheaper oil with high levels of monounsaturated fats. However, the refining process can influence an oil's flavour profile and aroma. Don't put weight behind words such as 'pure' or 'light' on the label - these are marketing terms with little meaning.

A quick way to determine quality is to see if an oil carries logo certification from a governing body such as the Australian Olive Association (AOA).­­ Their strict code of practice ensures you're getting high quality, often award-winning produce.

Flavour profiles

Oil is profiled according to its bitterness and pungency. Mild oils are characterised as buttery, nutty and delicate, while robust oils are pungent, astringent and bitter. Medium oils fall somewhere in the middle with fruity, grassy and herbal flavour profiles.

All of these traits are affected by an oil's polyphenol level which is determined by the variety of the olive and its ripeness at time of picking. "A low polyphenol variety, such as Arbequina, tends to produce oils low in bitterness and pungency," advises Gawel. In terms of maturity at harvest, "the polyphenol level of ripe olives is lower than that in green olives so the bitterness and pungency of the oil will decline as picking is left later and later," says Gawel.

Colour

Let's be clear. Colour is not indicative of quality. "High-quality extra virgin olive oils can appear emerald green through to golden yellow," says Gawel.

One thing worth noting is that some green oils can have a higher chlorophyll content. Chlorophyll is affected by light exposure, so ensure your oil isn't bottled in clear glass - unless you want it to go rancid.

Storage

Oil is not wine. It deteriorates with age and will not improve.

Keep it well-sealed, away from heat and light and it should see you through 12 months. Be mindful that the flavoursome and healthy polyphenols decline over time so try to use it frequently. If that's not possible, store in the fridge to increase shelf life. As a general guide, robust oils have the best shelf life.

Refined olive oil allows for additional preservatives so, in theory, it should have a longer shelf life than extra-virgin oil. However, most refined oil is sold in clear glass bottles which decreases longevity.

Uses

There's a misconception that you can't use extra-virgin oil for cooking. Yes, it does have a lower smoke point than olive oil (170˚-210˚ depending on acidity), but it can be used to shallow fry.

Gourmet Traveller food and style director Emma Knowles suggests a mild olive oil to sauté, poach and bake, saving a robust extra-virgin oil for finishing. A medium extra-virgin oil is your best choice to team with balsamic.

Oil carries flavour, so as a general rule of thumb, pair like with like. Robust oils work with strongly flavoured or seasoned foods whereas a mild oil is bested suited to mellow flavours that would be overpowered by anything stronger.

This article is presented by ALDI, the first supermarket to sign the Australian Olive Association Code of Good Practice.

GT
Signature Collection

Find out more about the Gourmet Traveller Signature Collection by Robert Gordon Australia, including where to buy it in store and online.

Read More
Recipe collections

Looking for ways to make the most out of seasonal produce? Want to find a recipe perfect for a party? Or just after fresh ideas for dessert? Either way, our recipe collections have you covered.

See more
2017 Restaurant Guide

Our 2017 Restaurant Guide is online, covering over 400 restaurants Australia wide. Never wonder where to dine again.

See more

You might also like...

Blame the flame

Chef Lennox Hastie worked the coals at Spain’s famed Etxebar...

Prepared chestnuts

A fresh chestnut is a hard nut to crack, so we’re lucky, the...

Home-dried herbs

I’ve got a surplus of herbs in the garden; how do I get the ...

How to carve a jack-o'-lantern

We ask three American chefs to share their pumpkin carving s...

How to grow chillies

This is the time of year for vegetables that like it hot and...

How to grow garlic

Garlic has a long growing time, but low maintenance and fres...

How to grow broccoli

Broccoli is the most prolific member of the brassica family ...

How to pickle fruit and vegetables

I’m keen to get in on this pickling thing. Where’s a good pl...

How to plant broad beans

Plant broad beans now, when the weather is cool, and they’ll...

How to cook wagyu

I’ve been noticing restaurant-grade wagyu in good butcher’s ...

Classic Sunday roast ideas

What’s the key to nailing a really good classic Sunday roast...

Quick meals with chilli bean paste

This handy Chinese condiment is a sure-fire speedy way of ad...

What is Buddha’s hand?

This freakishly shaped fruit, aka fingered citron, hails fro...

Best meat for big parties

What can you suggest that’s low maintenance and high impact ...

Are any spring flowers worth eating?

With borage flowers and violets everywhere, it’s easy to for...

get the latest news

Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.

×