There May Be a Better Way to Use Olive Oil Bottles … But It’s Not Perfect

published May 7, 2021
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Credit: Lisa Freedman

Here at Kitchn, we love a good olive oil hack (It makes a surprisingly effective stainless steel polish, for example). And of course, we’re also advocates for

keeping plenty of olive oil on hand

Most everyday olive oils are sealed with an inner pull-off plastic tab underneath the cap. If you’re like me, once you break that seal you promptly toss that part into the garbage. Here’s where the problems start: The large opening created from the tab causes many people (*raises hand*) to accidentally pour out a lot more oil than we need. I’m forever shallow-frying when I mean to sauté. This cannot be just me; that stuff glugs out fast.

Well, TikTok to the rescue. (Honestly, if I had a dollar for every time I said that this year, I’d be well on my way to early retirement.) This popular video demonstrates yet another one of those mind-blowingly simple “you’re doing it wrong” upgrades. In the video, the user @chaldomom pulls away the tab on her plastic olive oil jug and then flips it upside down and puts it back on the jug. They then proceed to pour a moderate — dare I say responsible — amount of oil into a pot of pasta.

So, wait: I’m not supposed to be tossing that little thingie into the trash? If the internet is right, to solve the problem of my over-enthusiastic pours I just had to put the tab back on the jar … upside-down.

Obviously I had to try it.

I headed to the grocery store in search of a plastic bottle of oil, like the one in the TikTok video. I was surprised to discover that Wegmans, where I go when I need just about anything, had only one plastic bottle of olive oil. So I grabbed the Filippo Berrio and headed for home. 

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

Olive Oil Pouring Hack: Test No. 1

The plastic Filippo Berrio bottle did have a pull-off tab under the permanent cap, but I could tell that it was designed to be thrown away. I tried for an embarrassingly long time to fit the tab back on the bottle — right-side up, upside down, and even sideways — but there was just no way it was going to happen. 

The opening left by the tab was moderate in size; it was clear that this was Filippo Berrio’s answer to the “too fast” pour. I glugged out a little onto a plate of sautéed spinach. It worked fine. 

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

Olive Oil Pouring Hack: Test No. 2

Clearly for this hack to work, I needed to try it with a tab that was made to be put back on the mouth of the bottle. 

The TikTok video doesn’t call out the brand of oil used, but on closer inspection it appeared to be Bertolli. Unfortunately, that wasn’t available in my grocery store. I ordered a bottle online (I chose the “Extra Light” version, assuming from the look of the bottle in the video, that’s what they used.) 

My second attempt felt like Groundhog’s Day — with me playing the role of Bill Murray. I eagerly broke the seal of the cap, only to discover that this tab was also designed to be thrown away. As with the Filippo Berrio bottle, Bertolli’s bottle had a modest opening for controlled pours. Boo.

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

Olive Oil Pouring Hack: Test No. 3

After consulting with some of my friends at Kitchn, they informed me that the 1.4-liter bottle of California Olive Ranch EVOO definitely came with a pull-off tab like the one in the TikTok video. Again, my grocer only sold that brand in glass jars, so again I ordered online and enjoyed a nice chat with my UPS carrier. 

Success! This bottle’s tab had several little “petals,” just like the one in the video. I pulled it off, then flipped it upside down before carefully setting it on top of the spout. I pressed in very gently to affix it, and…

Plop.

My light touch was just enough to push the tab through the spout’s opening, right into the giant bottle of olive oil.

I shimmied the top off with a flat screwdriver (it was sealed on tightly!) in hopes of fishing out the tab and trying again. Alas, the tab had sunk to the bottom of the bottle. I still wanted to test how it poured, and I can report that drizzling out olive oil from a 1.4-liter jug is tricky. It sloshed enthusiastically and spattered my stovetop with a sheen of oil. 

While the pull-off tab may have helped control the volume of the pour, the hack was ultimately way too bottle-specific and fussy to actually be useful. At least now I have a good stash of olive oil!

How to Make the Oil Oil Pouring Hack Work for You

After buying three different plastic bottles of oil — in three different sizes — I’ve learned that the bigger the bottle, the more likely it is to have this specific tab. Smaller ones tend to contain a thinner, hourglass or teardrop-shaped spout. So if you want to try this trick at home, I recommend doing it with the largest bottle you can find.

I can also confidently say this: Although the pull-off tab trick may or may not jive for you, there is one method that works every time, and it’s delightfully low-tech: Just place your thumb loosely over the opening of the jar to control the stream of oil. It works with any bottle.