I often hear people tell me they are saving their best, estate EVOO for special occasions. Olive oil does NOT improve with age. There is an old, Italian proverb – “olio nuovo, vino vecchio” meaning “it is best to consume young oil but old wine”. Because of olive oil’s high monounsaturated fat content, it can be stored longer than most other oils, often up to two years, as long as it’s stored properly. Oils are fragile and need to be treated gently to preserve their healthful properties.
A study in the Journal of Food Science (March 2009), notes that olive oil sitting on your shelf for over 6 months may lose up to 40% of its healthy, antioxidant benefits.
Storing olive oil so that it remains fresh, retains flavor, and doesn’t become rancid is important. The four enemies of olive oil are heat, light, air and time, which all contribute to rancidity.
How do I buy fresh olive oil?
Make sure you buy from a reputable producer online. If you buy at the grocery store, reach for that bottle at the back of the shelf, where the oil has been protected from fluorescent light. Look for the harvest date.
How do I store?
Olive oil should be stored in a cool, dark place and in a sealed container. The best containers for olive oil are glass (especially tinted), ceramic, porcelain, or non-reactive metals, such as stainless steel.
What if I buy in bulk?
Do what they do in Italy. Pour some oil into a clean dark wine bottle fitted with a pouring spout.
Words of advice:
- Place your olive oil in a kitchen cabinet away from the stove and oven.
- Store olive oil in a cool, dark place away from light and heat.
- Stay away from plastic containers as the oil can absorb the chemical polyvinyl chloride.
- Make sure the container has the ability to be resealed tightly.
- Don’t refrigerate your best, estate EVOO. Buy in smaller quantities if you are concerned about shelf life.
What about refrigeration?
There are two schools of thought on refrigeration. The issue is flavor vs. shelf life.
- One view: do not refrigerate. Refrigeration causes condensation to form on the inner part of the container, which may harm the flavor.
- Another view: Because monounsaturated fat is highly perishable, it may need to be refrigerated. If your home is above 85° F (and there’s no place where it can remain at a constant cooler temperature) or if you do not plan to use a larger container of olive oil for over 3 months, it’s wise to use refrigeration.
- A caveat: Refrigeration causes the oil to become cloudy and slightly solid. It will return to its liquid state once removed from the refrigerator and placed on the counter for a few minutes. However, its flavor will not be the same. Every time you take olive oil in and out of the refrigerator, it loses its uniqueness.
Remember, olive oil does not improve with age… use within three months after opening. However, if you read The Passionate Olive – 101 Things to do with Olive Oil, I doubt if your olive oil will exceed its shelf life. A more common scenario is that you will run out of it!