In this article, we'll try to explain what we feel is the best way to determine if it's olive oil and if it's really 'extra virgin'.
We'll start with the least effective method and move on to the most effective.
Before we get started, you might want to research 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 oil produced from olives 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 believe you cannot cook at high temperatures with extra virgin olive oil and this is simply not true.
The problem with a lot of what you can buy at the grocery store is that it's been blended with sunflower oil which only has a smoke point of around 225°F or it's low quality and improperly labeled.
So, if you're seeing smoke at a low temperature, this is probably why.
It's not a sure fire test, though.
Real extra virgin olive oil can have a smoke point as low as 330°F and as high as 410°F, depending on its quality.
That's a pretty big range and if the olive oil has been blended with something like refined canola oil, the smoke test won't identify it as being fake.
Dark Bottles Light diminishes quality and most producers who care about making high quality extra virgin 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.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil should be able to keep an oil lamp burning.
If you try this and it doesn't stay lit, you definitely don't have the real thing.
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 real.
Taste Test If you taste a lot of olive oils, 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, the real thing finishes with some pungency.
It's a result of high levels of polyphenols and a good sign that at a minimum, your oil has some heart healthiness.
Sediment Sediment is a pretty good sign.
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 one 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 the 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 products for chemical testing every year.
Read more about what ' Extra Virgin Olive Oil ' means