Olive oil: out of the pantry into the limelight

Australia is currently the largest consumer of olive oil per capita outside the Mediterranean. However, myths and ignorance still remain about this gold liquid that can be found in many Australian pantries.

Australian celebrity chef Peter Howard identifies tips to help you use your Australian Extra Virgin olive oil to its full potential.

To fry or not to fry

Howard said one of the most common myths about olive oil is that it should not be used for pan frying. “Due to its composition and high concentration of antioxidants, olive oil is in fact the best oil for pan frying,” Howard said.

Here are the top five reasons why olive oil should not be left aside when it comes down to frying:

1. The nutritional value and composition of olive oil are not substantially altered through heating. Studies have shown oxidation and hydrogenation occurs to a lesser degree in olive oil than in other oils. This is due to the fact that olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids and therefore resistant to oxidation and hydrogenation. Extra virgin olive oil also contains its own natural antioxidants that further protect its integrity in cooking.

2. Olive oil is a most stable fat and stands up well to high frying temperatures. Its high smoking point (210ºC) is substantially higher than the ideal temperature for frying food (180ºC)

3. Food fried in olive oil has a lower fat content than food fried in other oils because when olive oil is used, very little is absorbed during frying. This makes olive oil more suitable for weight control.

4. Olive oil increases in volume when reheated, so less is required for cooking and frying. It can also be reused four to five times if strained and stored in a dark place.

5. The digestibility of heated olive oil does not change even when re-used for frying several times.

Cooking tips

1. Always pour in your olive oil once the pan is hot; it will allow the oil to spread more easily in the pan to maximise its use

2. When making mayonnaise, make sure you use a fairly light-flavoured olive oil, otherwise the oil will have an overwhelmed flavour

3.Instead of buying an already-made dressing full of fat and sugar, make your own by gently whisking certified Australian Extra Virgin olive oil with white balsamic vinegar and drizzle over your favourite salad or dish.

4. The ideal frying temperature is 180ºC because it seals the item being fried which absorbs less oil. At lower temperature, the oil is able to soak into the item while at higher temperature, the item burns and does not cook through.

How long can I expect my olive oil to last?

Extra virgin olive oil is best consumed young because this is when its fresh aromas and flavours are at their peak.

However, the higher levels of natural antioxidants and monounsaturated fats found in extra virgin olive oil mean that it generally remains fresher longer than other edible oils. Provided they are stored properly, the majority of extra virgin olive oils will retain good flavour and freshness for at least 12 months.

How should I store my olive oil?
Olive oil should be stored in a cool and dark place. Most premium Australian Extra Virgin olive oils come in dark bottles, which help keep the oil out of the natural light.
Refrigerating extra virgin olive oil is a good way of prolonging the shelf life of the oil without affecting its aroma and flavour. The oil may turn a little cloudy, but it will come back to its natural state when put back at room temperature.

What exactly is Australian Extra Virgin olive oil?

Australian Extra Virgin olive oil is the natural oil from quality olives that have been picked straight off the tree and extracted as soon as possible without the use of chemicals or excessive heat. This ensures that the oil’s remarkable health benefits, flavour and freshness are maximised.

Extra virgin olive oil is the most beneficial olive oil for health and wellbeing. It is rich and diverse in protective antioxidants which help lower bad cholesterol and maintain the beneficial HDL cholesterol.

Australian Extra Virgin olive oil is versatile and can be used everyday as an ingredient or accompaniment to food and for almost all forms of cooking.

More information on Australian Extra Virgin is available at www.australianextravirgin.com.au or by calling (02) 9863 8735

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