How to Taste Olive Oil

An illustrated guide.

Before you cook with olive oil, it’s important to taste it—just like people taste wine or cheese. Doing this will give you ideas about what you can pair it with!

1. Pour the olive oil into a small cup.


2. Place the cup in the palm of your hand,


cover the top of it with the other hand, and swirl it for twenty seconds. By doing this, you’re warming the oil and releasing some of the aromas.

3. Lift your hand off of the top, and smell the oil.


4.Taste it, but don’t drink it!


You want to taste using a method that’s called strippagio, which means you aerate the oil and create a spray effect, so that it covers all parts of the mouth cavity and you get the full aroma. Clench your jaw together and inhale audibly, letting the oil spray coat your mouth.

5. Swallow, and let the oil echo in your head.


You might get a little high. Maybe you’ll get a peppery sensation in the back of your throat that causes a little burn—this is from oleocanthol, which is the antioxidant naturally found in the oil. Sometimes you’ll have to cough because it’s so strong—that’s okay! That’s actually considered a compliment to a producer; it means they’re making a very healthy oil. Some people rate oils as one cough, two coughs, or three coughs in terms of intensity.

Once you’ve made your assessment, let your taste guide you on how to use the oil. As a rule of thumb, mellow oils, those that go down smooth or elicit no coughs, are good for cooking and raw applications where you want the oils to subsume (not overwhelm) other ingredients in the dish. The bigger, more assertive oils are best in raw preparations that allow the oil to cut through and brighten up the dish, which showcases their inherent vibrant qualities.