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February 2, 2009

Helpful Hints from joeeze: Pitted v Unpitted Olives — Which Are Better?

Best bestbest

Long answer short: Unpitted.

Here's what Cook's Illustrated's "Notes from Readers" feature in the latest issue (March/April 2009) had to say on the subject.


Q. Are there any differences in flavor or texture among pitted and unpitted brine-cured olives?

A. To evaluate any differences between pitted and unpitted olives, we gathered both green and black brine-cured olives from deli sections at supermarkets, as well as olives packed in plastic and glass containers.

After tasting many samples, it became clear that the pitted olives suffered on two counts: they tasted saltier and their flesh was mushier. They also lacked the complex, fruity flavors of the unpitted kind.

Here's why: Before being packed for sale, fresh-picked olives are soaked in brine for periods of up to a year to remove bitterness and develop flavor. Once pitted, the olives are returned to the brine for packing, which can penetrate the inside of the olive and turn it mushy and pasty, as well as increase the absorption of salt.

That saltier taste can mask subtler flavors. If you have the time, it makes sense to buy unpitted olives and pit them yourself.


Well, Cook's Illustrated has taken you to the place where you can see the Promised Land — now what?

1. The best widely available brand of pre-packed olives in the U.S. is Peleponnese (top). I'm able to find five different varieties — Amfissa, Cracked, Kalamata, Ionian and Country (bonus: all unpitted) — at my local Harris Teeter.

2.featured an olive pitter back in 2007.

3. Don't want to spend the money for another idiotstick kitchen tool? I can see how you'd feel that way. Try this simple hack.

February 2, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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Gimme a good Kalamata anyday...I don't care if it is pitted or not because its going into my dovka anyhows. Whyf dob't they makes martins with kalamadas? I'm on my 5ifth one now!@!

Posted by: clifyt | Feb 3, 2009 12:44:27 PM

don´t tell me my olive pitter is an idiot stick....i´ve always thought it was a genious wand that gives me an immediate sense of progress in life, one pitted olive after the next.

Posted by: gina | Feb 3, 2009 9:00:27 AM

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