What Exactly is Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Evoo as it's Often Called?
There are 4 levels of olive oil. Extra virgin is the highest level of quality, then there is virgin olive oil, olive oil and lampante which is unfit for human consumption. By definition extra virgin olive oil is oil obtained from the fruit of the olive with absolutely nothing added to it. To be classified as a true evoo, the oil must first and foremost have no defects. It must have some level of fruitiness and have no more than 0.8% free acidity. Anything higher and it can't be called an extra virgin olive oil. In fact many premium evoos have free acidity levels of .3 or lower.
How Long Will My Oil Stay Fresh?
As long as it's stored properly, an unopened bottle of olive oil can stay fresh for 18-24 months after its harvest date. It's best kept in a cool dark place. It doesn't need to be kept in the fridge, a dark cupboard away from any heat sources or direct sunlight will do. Once the bottle has been opened it should be used within 4 - 6 months.
Can I Cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
The short answer...yes! Yes you can cook and even fry with evoo! It's the free acidity level of an oil that determines its smoking point. The higher the free acidity level the lower the temperature at which an oil will start smoking. The lower the free acidity level the higher the temperature at which the oil will smoke. Not only does extra virgin olive oil have quite a high smoking point it's an extremely stable oil. Even an oil that contains a free acidity level of 0.8% has a smoking point of approximately 390 degrees fahrenheit or approximately 200 degrees celsius. Most premium quality evoos contain free acidity levels much lower than 0.8%. In fact most have free acidity levels of 0.3% or less. This brings their smoking point up to 410 - 420F degrees or 215 degrees celsius. You can also reuse extra virgin olive oil a few times. Just be sure to store it in a tight container and in a cool, dark place between uses. And keep in mind that each time you use it, the free acidity level will increase meaning you may not be able to cook at quite as high a temperature as with the first use.
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