Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is an essential workhorse of modern neuroscience, providing valuable insight into the functional organisation of the brain. The physiological mechanisms underlying the blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) effect are complex and preclude a straightforward interpretation of the signal. However, by employing appropriate calibration of the BOLD signal, quantitative measurements can be made of important physiological parameters including the absolute rate of cerebral metabolic oxygen consumption or oxygen metabolism (CMRO2) and oxygen extraction (OEF). The ability to map such fundamental parameters has the potential to greatly expand the utility of fMRI and to broaden its scope of application in clinical research and clinical practice. In this review article we discuss some of the practical issues related to the calibrated-fMRI approach to the measurement of CMRO2. We give an overview of the necessary precautions to ensure high quality data acquisition, and explore some of the pitfalls and challenges that must be considered as it is applied and interpreted in a widening array of diseases and research questions.