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how do you pick olive oil?

  • j

for shoppers at a grocery store, not a specialty store with sampling, how do you pick? color? country of origin? cold pressed? first cold pressed??

generally i go price (always one on sale), then look for cold pressed, then check for any weird coloring.

any tips for finding the best stuff? or do you just say the hell with it and stick with your brand?

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  1. "any tips for finding the best stuff? "

    Go to a good store...
    Try them:
    - you like it, ask for similar oil.
    - you don't like it, ask for some thing different.

    Personally, I don't really care, I buy good oils from different countries all the time, from cheapo Tunisian oil in sticky plastic bottles to small bottles of expensive french, to commercial oil from supermarkets.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Maximilien

      I don't care enough to go to a store that has tastings, i'm wondering if there are ways to judge without tasting. just like smelling/poking at fruit.

      1. re: j8715

        yes and no.

        There's the level of "oleic acid" that should be as low as possible ( smaller than1% and no more than 3%) for good olive oil; it should be mentioned on the bottles; if it is not mentioned on the bottle than it will be higher but should not be higher than 6% (what wikipedia says)

        But that will not say whether or not you like the olive oil itself; buy as small a bottle you can find and just try it.

    2. Simple. Find and buy "Spitiko", a very fruity, very green-colored Greek oil.

      Problem solved.

      Here's a link from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Spitiko-Greek-E...

      1 Reply
      1. re: DoobieWah

        love that Doobie, thanks for posting. must give it a try.
        bought a crazy looking bottle once in the supermarket because the price was not to be missed or ignored so I grabbed it simply due to that and the fact that it was from Greece and was kalamata olive oil. how could I resist? I couldn't and it was fabulous...........and no idea why so inexpensive

      2. If your store doesn't allow tasting, find another store. Otherwise it is a crap shoot.

        1. None of the above. The only sure way to know is by taste. I don't like oils with a peppery finish, so those at any price range would be a waste of my money.

          If you've found something you are happy with and can afford it, by all means stick with your brand. You can waste a lot of money by trying to pick out something 'better.'

          1 Reply
          1. re: Steve

            agree Steve

            I've had bitter tasting olive oil at a Broadway production in NYC by two very famous chefs.

            Was told if I can get there, to New York, they'll leave a msg at will call, I could and did.

            Although their food was delicious, not surprisingly, one of the olive oils was very bitter on the very back of my tongue and did nothing for the part of the menu it was used for. I brought a gift for both chefs and met them before the show, but was apprehensive about the cards left on the tables for diners to fill out. I praised all but questioned that one olive oil.

            Was later told it was used because of the after taste, I still don't understand but oh well.

          2. It really depends on what you are using the particular oil for, if that makes sense. If you use your olive oil primarily for cooking/baking/frying, then price and previous experience is important. We use a cold pressed extra virgin olive oil commercial type brand for this.
            If you are using one for "tasting" or eating, as in a caesar salad or other salad dressings, you'll have to be more particular and this is where tasting is important.
            I start with 1st cold pressed, extra virgin, country of origin, then price. When I say "country of origin" I mean that I distinguish between those "Product of Canada. Made from oils imported from Italy" vs "imported from Greece". I know there are no guarantees, but I prefer the imports, personally.
            I'm not too sure what you mean by "weird colors" -- I know that unfiltered olive oils can be bright green and the unfiltered nature can actually add to the flavor. So you really have to try them. And because of the extra cost, alot of people won't use an unfiltered oil for cooking or baking because the unfiltered nature of it means there are more olive particulates/solids in the oil. These olive bits are great for adding flavor to salads and as a drizzle but can get lost in cooking/baking or worse yet, throw the flavor of say a chocolate cake a tad bit "off".
            You should also look at the date on the bottle: alot of olive oils on the shelves are 2 or more years old. Not a huge deal for cooking/baking but the unfiltered oils have a shorter shelf life than their more processed cousins LOL
            Right now, I'm working on a bottle of unfiltered, 1st cold pressed Sicilian olive oil that is spectacular for dishes where olive oil flavor is important, and a big bottle of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil from the grocery store for cooking/baking. :)

            1. Tastings would be great but not many stores around me (well none) do tastings. For generic cooking I use the common brands found in the grocery store, like Pompeian, Bertolli and even Lucini. I know they are not excellent but they fill a need for an olive oil taste when making basic dressings and doing lower heat sautes. For finishing olive oils I have had to do some random picking and trying them at home. Tried Frantoia and was not getting what the love was about except this is an oil we see Mario Batali use on TV. It's not bad but not excellent

              I've settled on one that works for me and isn't that expensive. A domestic oil from the California Olive Ranch. Their Arbequina just does it for me. Fruity without a lot of pepper or astringent notes. My big box grocers didn't have this. I found it at Fresh Market and picked it up on a whim.

              1. I've been buying Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil by the gallon from Costco for many years now. It's pretty much all I cook with. Flavorful enough for drizzling & dressings, as well as for cooking.

                1. Each brand varies annually, so nothing's certain. Fresher is invariably better, however, and each brand generally has some (usually cryptic) code on the label to indicate year of harvest. The last two numbers, often, indicate the year.

                  Opaque, metal containers are also a plus, but not real common (I recall a year or two when Zoe in cans was great.). Color is not reliable as an indicator. Brands like Colavita, Monini, and Da Vinci have won taste tests in various years recently. Higher-end store brands tend to be pretty reliable. Lucini is a step up in price and average quality, with a regular and organic line.

                  I often keep a big jug of "pure" olive oil around for cooking and reserve the extra virgin oil for drizzles and non-cooked applications.

                  1. You also might find this of interest...it involves the doctoring of cheaper olive oils with other oil additives and marketed as EVOO and so on:
                    And here's some info on olive, olive oils, and production, it makes for a good read:

                    1. Spitiko is quite nice - from Greece. For a real treat, gift for you or really good friend, check out fresh pressed olive oil club's website. Super idea, fab oils and truly memorable experience. Helpful folks, too.

                      1. When buying a good olive oil for special uses I will find a local Italian market (ideally with a small deli) and ask them what they use for the deli, then I ask if they use the same at home. Buying what they use at home has always given good results.

                        1. I keep two olive oils on hand. The one I use for salad dressings is the one I am fussiest about — an extra virgin with the greenish look. I find one I like and stick with it. For cooking, just any spanish olive oil which is a good value in a large bottle. Then I transfer it to another bottle which is better for pouring.

                          1. Listen to this On Point podcast from Friday December 2:


                            1. After reading about fraud and adulteration in imported olive oils, I look for domestic first.

                              "Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli"

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Antilope

                                My Colavita bottle of "Fruttato" extra virgin olive oil says "Certified 100% Italian" and "obtained exclusively from olives harvested & pressed in Italy." this is my favorite high-end olive oil, not for cooking. The 750 ml bottle is a nice one to use for refilling with cooking olive oil, because of the long, thin neck.

                                BTW, most olive oil from Italy is pressed from olives grown elsewhere. Italy does not grow enough olives to satisfy its own market. That's why Italian-grown olive oil is pricey.

                                1. re: Antilope

                                  "SLIPPERY BUSINESS - The trade in adulterated olive oil." - New Yorker Magazine AUGUST 13, 2007

                                2. We are fortunate enough to buy ours very grassy and green in Croatia - just pressed. We bring some back from each trip and are well stocked since we just got back recently. There is absolutely no comparison between it and grocery store oils I've tried (even in specialty food stores). We've even helped press it and take the spanking fresh oil home. Absolutely amazing. We've gone to many, many oil tasting events. I have a book on olive oils and it is very interesting (what to look for, how to choose oils, their uses...). A few Croatian olive oils are amongst the top 20 in the world now and becoming sought after.

                                  However, the oil I mentioned above is too green and grassy for every use so at times we do use commercial oil from our store.

                                  1. going to Italy was such a pleasure for one reason because living at the vineyard they made everythig from the land including olive oil from their trees. our vintner was always telling us to go into the tasting room and stay there as long as we wanted to taste all his for sale items. he even did walnut oil from his walnut trees, what a lovely thing that was.

                                    love to go into WS and taste theirs that way I know for sure what I'm getting.
                                    but that's not usually the case so I read where it's from, what it says on the label, have listened and watched tv chefs so taken their advice and if a really good one is on sale, I grab that one or 2. I'm a sucker for olive oil.