Below is the best article I have read on cooking with extra virgin olive oil. In essence, the phenolitic compounds found in high quality extra virgin olive oil protect the oil during the cooking process so it does not break down into harmful substances. Low quality olive oils do not have these compounds so it is actually more harmful, not less harmful, to cook with them. There are many other factors that make high quality extra virgin olive oil the best choice for cooking. I highly recommend reading the entire article.
The scientific truth on cooking with extra virgin olive oil
This is a question we are frequently asked and the answer can help you with not just our oils but other high quality olive oils. If you are buying a California olive oil the first consideration should be to buy an oil that is certified by the COOC. All oils certified by the COOC under go a human taste test by trained experts. Many olive oil defects cannot be detected by a chemical analysis so a human taste test is essential to ensure high quality. It is very inexpensive to become certified so all high quality producers do so. You also want to look for a harvest date. All high quality producers print a harvest date on their bottles. You also want to choose producers whose bottles are dark glass. This helps prevent the degradation of oil due to exposure to light.
We describe our oils in the following way:
Mistral is light intensity and used on white wine dishes.
Sierra is medium intensity and used on red wine dishes.
Barouni is strong intensity and used on red wine dishes and other hearty fare.
The word intensity above refers to the pungency in the back of the throat that real extra virgin olive oil has. This is evidence of anti-oxidants.
However, as with wine, all the rules above can be broken if you are looking for contrasts. So which oil you choose depends on how you like the olive pungency. Typically the more you intake real extra virgin olive oil the stronger you prefer your oil.
Because of the high anti-oxidant level in our oils they can easily last two years from harvest date. Anti-oxidants protect our body and they protect the oil from degrading.
During the cold months we are frequently asked the question, ‘Is the oil ok if it freezes in transport?’ The answer is yes it will be fine. Simply let it thaw at room temperature and it will be good as new.
At the same time it is not recommended to keep the oil in the refrigerator. The oil should be stored in a cool dark place like a pantry, preferably not above the stove. Stored like this the oil should keep at least 3 months after it is opened. Remember real extra virgin olive oil is a fresh product and you receive the most health benefits if you consume the oil within three months after opening. This is why we sell our bottle in the smaller 375ml size. This allows you to finish the oil within, at most, 3 months after opening.
Extra Virgin olive oils contain the flavors of the olive fruit. (Tasting a raw olive is one of those experiences you would hope never to repeat.) Bitterness, along with pungency and vegetal/fruit flavors are considered positive attributes in EVO olive oils, particularly when they are well balanced. Depending on many factors, such as the olive variety and ripeness, milling technique, and the age of the oil, the bitterness and pungency can be quite intense. Sometimes professional tasters jokingly classify EVO oils as ‘one-cough, two-cough or three-cough’ oils. Fortunately, these strong olive oils make wonderful condiments. Once you get used to them, you’ll find them more and more attractive. In addition, the bitterness and pungency are evidence of a fresh olive oil that has polyphenols (anti-oxidants). It is this flavor in large part that actually makes extra virgin olive oil good for you.