New York Magazine

How to Choose a Great Olive Oil



Olive oil is a fruit juice, which means it doesn’t stay fresh forever. Look for the bottle’s harvest date, which should fall within the past year—any longer and it gets dull-tasting (by 18 months, it’ll have spoiled). The expiration date can be deceiving; it’s measured from the time of bottling, but the oil could have sat around for a long time before then.


Exposure to light, heat, and air can morph aroma and flavor profile. Look for a dark glass or entirely opaque bottle (avoid plastic or metal that isn’t stainless steel), and choose oils stored far from windows or industrial lights—two of our experts steer clear of the bottles sitting on the top shelf at the grocery store.


The most common are extra virgin (the least processed, extracted without heat or chemicals in a method known as “the first cold press”), virgin (similar to extra virgin, with lower standards), and pure (a blend, often treated with heat and chemicals). Always go for extra virgin: It has not only the strongest flavor but also the highest nutritiona­l value.

1. Best for Cooking Iliada Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tin, $43

Food writer Nancy Harmon Jenkins recommends this Greek olive oil, which she says her daughter, a chef, uses as an all-purpose oil at her restaurant. Its “less assertive” flavor makes it ideal for cooking. “You want that olive flavor, but you don’t want it to dominate the dish,” she says. It’s well priced for everyday use, too: A large tin comes out to less than 50 cents an ounce.

4. Best to Buy in Bulk Kirkland Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $16

It’s packaged in plastic and made from various Mediterran­ean olives, but cookbook author Danielle Oron still cites this bargain-friendly option as a favorite. “I know it’s a blend, but it tastes really good,” she says. The flavors are light, balanced, and able to fade into the background, which make it ideal for using in dressings and for sizzling chile oil: “I pour hot oil over chile flakes and scallions, and it’s not overpoweri­ng or too bitter,” she says.

7. Best for Steak

Frantoio Grove Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $24

According to Lycopolus, one common misconcept­ion about olive oil is that it can’t take high heat—“If your oil is fresh, you won’t get a lick of smoke,” she says. This means that searing a steak in olive oil is perfectly acceptable, and for that, Lycopolus prefers Frantoio Grove. Its tasting notes— peppery, with hints of mustard greens—pair well with meat, she says, and are robust enough to stand up to the garlic and herbs of a chimichurr­i.

2. Best for Dipping and Dressing Cobram Estate California Select

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $13

According to olive-oil sommelier Emily Lycopolus, Cobram Estate is ideal for dipping or for whisking into dressings:

Its low price point means you can use it liberally, and it’s tasty raw. Chef Matthew Hyland cites Cobram as a favorite, too.

“It’s buttery and grassy at the same time, which is a combinatio­n you don’t usually get,” he says. “Get a nice bread, add some Maldon salt, and eat that for dinner.”

5. Best Peppery for Finishing Wonder Valley Olive Oil, $36

For finishing steak or dipping bread into at home, restaurate­ur Claire Wadsworth turns to Wonder Valley, a brand co-founded by a former qualitycon­trol member of the California

Olive Oil Council: “It’s peppery—that’s the first thing I noticed—and has a kick, but it’s still buttery and luscious.” Katherine Lewin, the owner of a dinner-party-supply store, is also a fan of Wonder Valley. “It tastes spicy, wild, dynamic, and just grabs you,” she says.

8. Best for Getting Into Olive Oil Fat Gold Olive Oil, $30

For those curious to learn the difference between a koroneiki and a picudo olive or the history of how olives have been crushed to make oil, Lewin recommends

Fat Gold. Every order of olive oil comes with a zine that details the bottle’s tasting notes and the story of how it was produced—and includes recipes as well as more unexpected advice (the September 2020 issue recommends poems and a novella “to read with your Fat Gold”).

3. Best for Baking Sitia Lantzanaki­s Olive Oil, $13

This is what Liz Quijada, co-owner of Abraco in the East Village, uses to make her beloved olive-oil cake. She describes it as “a bit vegetal with a subtle brightness” that won’t compete with a recipe’s sweetness. Plus it has an ideal mouthfeel—crucial for baking. “Often when you’re in the not-expensive oil category, you get a thicker-than-comfortabl­e viscosity,” which Quijada likens to the texture of motor oil and can weigh down a cake.

6. Best Fruity for Finishing Pianogrill­o Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $38

It tastes a bit different depending on the year’s weather and harvest time, but according to Italian-food importer Beatrice Ughi, there is one constant: “Because of the soil, it always has the flavor of green tomatoes.” Ughi likes using it to prepare seafood, but a fruity oil can enhance the flavors of everything from white meats to cakes to vegetable dishes—making the last sweeter and more caramelize­d.

9. Best Made by Wine Producers Porto Cibo Mortellito, $28

It’s common for wineries to get into the olive-oil business, and some producers believe you can get a sense of terroir from an olive oil just as you can from a glass of wine. Wine director Chris Leon particular­ly likes Porto Cibo. As he explains it, the producer

“is in this super-unique place in the southeast part of Sicily, really close to the ocean, and in the olive oil, that comes through in the brine.” It’s complex enough that you could “nerd out about it, but you could also pour it for Mom and Dad,” he says.

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