I have read that you have to watch which olive oil you buy. Which might be to avoid? Why? And, how can one know while shopping which to purchase?
Most olive oils sold in the United States are a blend of various oil grades (sometimes not even olive oil but rather canola oils, vegetable oils, soybean oils, etc.) and sometimes you can tell because the bottle label may list multiple countries in the back. A bottle may say extra virgin olive oil but only a small portion of its contents have to be extra virgin olive oil to use that as a label. You can find some labeled 100% olive oil. I would at the very least look for that in order to eliminate buying industrial/seed oils which are undesirable. Or go to a a higher quality store that sells more natural foods and buy a boutique brand. If you're paying under $10 a bottle it's highly suspect (I've found). This is one food where price does seem to dictate quality at least at the lower price points.
Stick with "extra virgin" and you'll generally be okay. These have a stronger flavor, but the oil is extracted without chemical aids. If you don't want the olive oil flavor, you're better off not using olive oil in that specific dish, and using something else.
What I've heard is that the regulations on what can be considered 'extra virgin' is loose in the olive oil industry. So it is best to do your research and buy reputable and organic. If you're not a stickler for it being true extra virgin, to the best of my knowledge it isn't a huge deal.
The polyphenols in olive oil break down when the oil is kept in a clear bottle. I always buy olive oil in a dark, tinted bottle. Some local brands sell their oil in a metal container which is also excellent.
Besides the breakdown of the polyphenols, the opaqueness of the bottle is a good sign of quality. If the manufacturer doesn't know better than to sell it in a clear, glass bottle, then the product isn't top qualtiy.
In Israel, good quality local olive oil has a sticker from the Israel Olive Council. I can trust that an oil that carries the sticker isn't cut with a cheaper oil or poorly prepared. It's likely that other countries have some sort of reliable certification.
It's also nice to have a friend who's an olive oil expert and will point out the good and bad brands when you go to the store with him :)
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