10 Ways To Check If Your Olive Oil Is Real

by ArtisanalFoodLover

There is little to no enforcement of the labeling of extra virgin olive oil and the store shelves are filled with fake product.

The odds are pretty good that the extra virgin olive oil you buy at your grocery store is not real. Most of what's available there is either blended with another type of oil or it's such low quality that it's not fit to be labeled 'Extra Virgin'. There's no enforcement of what producers can put on their labels and every study that's been done has revealed serious flaws in the olive oil industry. It's up to the consumer to know what is real and what is fake.

Some of the tests that can be done work better than others. Ultimately, a consumer should look for an award winning olive oil that carries the California Olive Oil Council Certification seal.

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1. The Fridge Method

The test that is most commonly discussed is called the Fridge test. The general idea is that olive oil is primarily oleic acid. Oleic acid freezes around 39 degrees Fahrenheit, and most people have their refrigerator set to 37 degrees fahrenheit. So, if you leave your oil in the refrigerator for a couple of days it should solidify or become cloudy.

Unfortunately, this method doesn't always work. Real olive oil will have an oleic acid content of about 55% to 83%. Other types of acids like linoleic acid naturally occur in olives as well, and, in the case of linoleic acid, it has a freeze point around 15 degrees fahrenheit. When production occurs, the result can be an extra virgin olive oil that is 20% linoleic acid and will not freeze at 37 degrees fahrenheit.

2. Smoke Test

The premise behind the smoke test is that extra virgin olive oil will not begin to smoke until it reaches at least 330 degrees fahrenheit. Higher quality oils may not even smoke until they reach 410 degrees. If your olive oil smokes at less than 330 degrees you do not have 100% olive oil, or it's not a high enough quality to be labeled 'extra virgin'.

The smoke test is good at identifying olive oil that's been blended with sunflower oil which has a low smoke point (around 225 degrees). The problem is that olive oil is commonly faked by blending it with avocado oil or refined canola oil which both have a smoke point well over 400 degrees. So, this test will not identify these.

3. The Burn Test

All olive oil will burn in an oil lamp. If yours does not, you do not have 100% olive oil. That's about all you can say, though. Similar to the smoke test, it will help you identify something that is not olive oil, but lots of oils will burn in an oil lamp, so you don't know for sure that you've got the real thing.

4. Price

The current methods that are used to produce extra virgin olive oil are expensive enough that the lowest price your EVOO should cost is about $15/liter. If you're looking at a 500ml bottle that's $3, you're probably not looking at a bottle of EVOO.

5. Dark Bottles

Dark bottles are a good sign. Sun and heat will break down the nutritional value and ruin its shelf life. A lot of producers who are serious about making really good stuff prefer to use dark bottles to preserve their hard work. n n That said, this does not mean that a dark bottle definitely contains the real thing or that a clear bottle is fake. So while it's a good sign, a dark bottle will not guarantee you of anything.

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6. Sediment

Sediment in the bottle lets you know that the olives have not undergone a high level of processing. This is a good sign. The more processing olives undergo, the more likely the oil will break down and be of a lower quality. So, if you've got some sediment in the bottom of your bottle, you should be happy rather than upset.

7. Harvest Date

Some producers like to put a harvest date on their bottle. This is a really good sign. The big producers have no way of verifying when their olives were picked. They gather olives from all over the world and blend them into one product. So, there's no way for them to tell you when they were picked. Small producers typically only have a single grove of olive trees and know when they pick their olives.

8. Taste Test

If you know what you're looking for, you might do best to rely on your own senses. Real EVOO tends to be high in polyphenols. These can be identified by a grassy, peppery aftertaste. It's particularly evident in some of the more robust olive oil. Not all EVOO will give you this aftertaste, though, and if you're not sure what to look for, it may not be for you.

9. California Olive Oil Council Certification

The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) has some of the strictest requirements in the world. In fact, a lot of the olive oil that meets the International Olive Council (IOC) standards will not meet the COOC standards. Most of the producers who have met COOC's standards will display the COOC seal on their label.

10. Buy Award Winners

Probably the best method of identifying real olive oil is to buy a product that's won at international competitions. They've undergone the most scrutiny of all and the experts are usually right in this field. By buying something that's won awards, you're ensuring that at a minimum, you're buying something that you'll like. To me you can't go wrong finding Extra Virgin Olive Oil this way.

Huile D'olive
Huile D'Olive
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Updated: 01/03/2013, ArtisanalFoodLover
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Rose on 12/04/2015

Great tips. Didn't realise olive oil solidified in the fridge.

ArtisanalFoodLover on 01/03/2013

Ya, it's really a shame. Such healthy stuff if it's real!

BrendaBarnes on 01/02/2013

Great olive oil is a staple in our kitchen. It is wonderfully rich and that taste is unique. I look for the dark green tint also. So many fakes in the world and people have to pick on olive oil. sigh You are right though. It would be easy to rip off someone who does not know about the real product. Thanks for a highly educational tutorial on EVOO.

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