Does Olive Oil Go Bad?
Olive oil tends to be something we either use a lot of or have in a bottle at the back of the cupboard for years and rarely open. As a healthy oil derived from the olive tree, it is a key part of the Mediterranean diet. Although a fat, its health and nutrition properties are incredibly beneficial for us when eaten as part of a balanced diet. Not all olive oil is the same. How it is made and from which type of olive are important factors in the oil we will consume. These factors affect aroma and flavor, as well as potential health properties.
As with any foodstuff, olive oil will be packaged and sold to consumers. Many of us know that olive oil will have a certain amount of time when it is considered optimal for consumption. However, does olive oil go bad? oneHOWTO looks into the possible expiration of olive oil and question any doubts you may have about using olive oil.
Does olive oil expire or not?
All organic material will decompose over time and olive oil is no exception. However, some will take much longer than others. Oil is a preservative. If we want to keep certain things for longer, we can place them in oil. We see this with other foods such as artichokes, fish and various other preserves. Especially when sealed in a jar or can, the self-life of these products can last a very long time.
If you look at a bottle of olive oil, you are unlikely to see an expiry date. Instead, you will see a ‘best before’ date or similar. These are recommended consumption dates which will show the date after which the olive oil will lose its quality and flavor. It may still be perfectly fine for consumption, but the quality will not be as good. Generally, an unopened bottle should maintain its optimal quality for around two years.
There are many exceptions. If there are other ingredients in the olive oil, then the decomposition time of these products may make the olive oil spoil sooner. This is especially the case once the product has been opened and exposed to air.
Can I use expired olive oil?
As stated above, the olive oil will not have an expiration date, but a best before date instead. Some of the olive oil's organoleptic properties, such as aroma, texture and flavor, can be altered. Looking at the packaging date is a good suggestion. The less time that passes between the best before date elapses and consumption, the better properties your olive oil will have. Again, this will change if the olive oil has been opened.
You may also wonder whether or not you can use olive oil for cooking after the best before date has elapsed. This is also completely fine. Since you may not be using the olive oil for its flavor as much as its ability to aid in cooking, using the olive oil to cook past its best before date is fine. It will still have its conductive properties and will not pose a risk to health, within reason.
How to know if olive oil has gone bad
Although olive oil does not expire, this does not mean that it cannot be spoiled by the action of external agents. The most common which cause early decomposition of olive oil are direct sunlight, high temperatures and exposure to the air. If you are in doubt as to whether your olive oil has spoiled, there are certain things you can identify.
Firstly, spoiled olive oil will have a bad smell. Olive oil should be fragrant and fresh smelling. If it smells musty or rancid, it is a sign the olive oil has gone bad. If the olive oil is mixed with other ingredients, we should be sure the smell is not related to them, e.g. some fish may have a naturally strong odor which isn't a sign of decay.
Another way to tell if olive oil has gone bad is by taste. Since it takes a long time for olive oil to decompose, you won't likely cause any harm eating bad olive oil in small amounts. If you put a few drops on your finger and taste it, you may be able to tell if it has gone off.
If you have a new bottle or one which is before its best before date, it should be safe to eat. Even if it has been exposed to the sun, it should be safe for consumption, even if it is not at its optimal quality. Learn more about olive oil quality in our article on the differences between virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil.
How to make olive oil last longer
More important than the dates of preferential consumption on the packaging is to check that the olive oil has been preserved in the proper conditions. These conditions are those which help ensure its optimal state and keep its aroma and other qualities.
When purchasing a bottle of olive oil, it should be in a sealed airtight container, usually a bottle. If in a glass bottle, the glass should preferably be dark to prevent spoilage from the sun's UV rays. As soon as the olive oil bottle is opened, it will start to oxidize once it is in contact with air. This is why an unopened bottle of olive oil will last even longer.
More than just having a dark glass bottle, we should ensure the oil is kept away from heat and direct sunlight. Keeping it in a cool dry place is best. If you have a vacuum sealer, you can use this on your olive oil to help slow down oxidization. However, this won't be necessary if you plan to use the bottle of olive oil within a year or less of opening since the difference will be practically imperceptible.
Learn more about olive oil as a preservative with our article on how to preserve hot peppers in olive oil.
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