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Keeping your olive oil within reach of your stove might be convenient, but it’s a bad habit. Where you’re stashing your oil, and what kind of container you’re storing it in, can affect both its taste and its freshness. In the wrong place, your oil can wind up going rancid faster (and changing the flavor of what you’re cooking).
So, what’s the correct way to store olive oil? Vincent Ricchiuti, founder and COO of the family-owned and operated ENZO Olive Oil Company, shares his expertise in all things EVOO – here are his top tips for storing this pantry product so it stays fresh.
EVOO should be stored in a dark or opaque container away from heat
If you’ve heard that EVOO needs to be stored inside a dark container, good news: You’re right!
“You want to make sure that your olive oil is in a dark green glass because if it’s sitting in a clear glass, the oil is probably not very good inside,” Ricchiuti points out.
But keeping your olive oil inside a container that doesn’t allow much light in isn’t the only step you should take to ensure it stays top-tier in quality and taste.
“There [are] two big enemies to olive oil: UV rays, or light, and temperature,” Ricchiuti explains. “You want to keep it in a dark container and also store it in a cool and dark place. So, not on the kitchen counter next to the stove or next to a bay window. That is the worst possible place!”
Where does Ricchiuti keep his EVOO? “At my house, we keep ours up in the cupboard. It’s cool, it’s dark, out of light and out of the way of heat,” he says.
What about decorative containers?
Ricchiuti says there’s nothing wrong with taking your oil out of its original bottle and pouring it into the storage vessel of your choosing – as long as that vessel keeps light and heat out, of course. But he does point out that you need to care for that container regularly.
“Make sure you clean that vessel regularly, like between filling it. When you’re pouring oil on top of oil, you’re gonna leave some remnants behind. It might get dirty inside,” he explains.
Olive oil doesn’t expire, but it does have a shelf life
If you can’t quite remember how long ago you cracked open the bottle of oil sitting in your pantry, it might be time to move on. Olive oil doesn’t last forever. It doesn’t necessarily expire, but it also shouldn’t sit in your cupboard for years.
“Olive oil is not like wine. It does not get better with age,” Ricchiuti explains. But EVOO doesn’t exactly have a specific lifespan – it may not even have a “best by” date on the bottle.
Instead of looking for an expiration date (or assuming old oil is still good), Ricchiuti suggests that you look for a harvest date. That’s the date on which the olives used to make the oil were harvested. “You want to consume the olive oil as close to the harvest date as possible, keeping in mind that in California and Europe, that harvest date range usually begins in October and runs through December,” he says.
Keep in mind the crop year for olive oil may not be the same as the current year. Like wine, an oil’s harvest “vintage” may date back a year. As Ricchiuti notes, “For example, [ENZO Olive Oil’s] closest crop year right now will say ‘21. It won’t say ‘22.”
But Ricchiuti also points out that oil doesn’t necessarily go rancid if it’s not used up within months or even a year of that harvest date.
“I want to stress this,” he says. “If you go past [three to six months], it’s not going to hurt you. It’s not like spoiled milk. The polyphenols and the healthy attributes and the robust flavor all mellow out, and it’s just becoming more [simple] olive oil. If you say, ‘Oh shoot, I’m six months past when I opened this, I have to pour it out.’ No, you can probably just use it to fry with. Maybe you’re not finishing your salad with it; you’re just going to use it in a different way now.”
The best way to determine if your oil is better for frying versus finishing? “Taste it,” Ricchiuti says. “Take a little, put it on a spoon, taste it. If it’s still good, awesome – keep using it.”
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