Olive oil is as essential to the kitchen as a saucepan or stove. Yet, while it’s always in front of us, we don’t always pay attention to what it can do—or not do—for the dishes we add it to. Still, while a bad olive oil won’t turn your sauté sour, something a bit more flavorful can perk up the flavor and smooth out the texture of a dressing and make dunking that bread in olive oil a genuine pleasure rather than a waste of time and carbs. Whichever you choose, always keep your olive oil in a dark, cool (but not refrigerated) place and use within six months of opening.
10. Carapelli Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Carapelli has added an unfiltered oil to their line and, while the dark glass and fluted finish looks quite elegant, the taste leaves more than a little something to be desired. Seriously: This one evokes motor oil more than olive oil. There’s a distinctly bitter aftertaste, like they found the most unpleasant aspect of an olive’s flavor, isolated it, then exaggerated it.
$10.99 for 16.9 ounces
9. Botticelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Boticelli is not heavily oily, but it has a bitter aftertaste. It’s alright to cook with, I suppose, but only in the most basic terms of lube between food and cookware. It would probably also do just fine for rubbing into your cuticles or loosening a stuck zipper.
$7.99 for 16.9 ounces
8. Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil
There’s not much taste to this one; just an oily texture that seems to stick to pots and pans in a particularly obstinate fashion. Bertolli is OK for cooking, but be prepared to use to sparingly or wind up blotting your salmon patty or pork chop with a paper napkin like it’s a slice of cheap street pizza. Bertolli's bottle has a very slight greenish tint—darker glass helps preserve the quality of the oil, but some folks prefer to be able to see what they’re buying. And, well, maybe they deserve what they get.
$10.99 for 16.9 ounces
7. Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The quality takes a big boost upward at No. 7—from here on out, it’s pretty much all good. Colavita is a solid, multi-use oil, entirely useful for sautés and dressings. It’s very light, not a lot of specific flavor, but that makes it a good oil for infusing or otherwise taking a backseat on the tastebuds in a marinade or sauce.
$7.99 for 17 ounces
6. O-Live & Co. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
O-Live olive oil is one of an increasing number of olive oils made with olives from South America, in this case, Chile. This oil has a hint of sun and earth, with a mild finish that lends itself well to sauces and sautés.
$9.99 for 16.9 ounces
5. Newman’s Own Organics Extra Virgin Olive Oil
You can pretty much always count on acceptable product from the Newman’s Own empire, whether it’s the salad dressing, the pizza, the popcorn, or the olive oil. This isn’t an amazing olive oil, but it’s sturdy and useful. One thing Newman’s does particularly well is cooking eggs, sliding your over-easy out of the pan with nary a bit of stuck yolk to singed white left behind.
$14.59 for 16.9 ounces
4. Olitalia Toscana P.G.I.
Olitalia does a full line of olive oils, from your basic extra virgin to lemon- and chili pepper-infused “creative cuisine” varieties. Their “authentic” line is derived from region-specific olives, such as the Tuscan version I tried, which deploys the fruitier olives of that region. It carries a fresh scent and pleasant, green flavor that is especially nice for drizzling on bread or seafood dishes.
$7.99 for 250 ml
3. Rao’s Homemade Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Rao’s has been a New York City Italian dining legend for over a century. With a bright, buttery flavor that lends itself to putting on bread, it’s also delicious drizzled on cherry tomatoes, zucchini or other fresh veggies, especially when augmented with a hint of sea salt.
$13.99 for 16.9 ounces
2. California Olive Ranch
California Olive Ranch’s oil has a grassy, faintly fruity flavor that harmonizes well with lighter dishes and is perfect for “California cuisine.” If you’re making a salad dressing, this one’s your go-to, creating a fine topping with just the barest bit of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice and giving a good head start to any marinade. California Olive Ranch recently expanded its olive farming beyond the Golden State through a recently announced partnership with producers in Argentina—hopefully the oil’s distinctive taste will be maintained.
$10.99 for 16.9 ounces
1. Lucini Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil
And so our quest for the finest olive oil brings us to the Andes. Lucini is an Italian company whose product is grown in the foothill of Argentina, creating an olive oil that adds texture and flavor to pretty much anything you put it on, from baby carrots to baguettes. The taste begins herbal, but ends with a present-but-not-overwhelming flavor that evokes a blend of black and green olives.
$17.00 for 16.9 ounces