Choosing a bottle of olive oil is not unlike buying wine. While you can buy any bottle at the store that appears to be good quality, if you want something really great, it’s worth doing some research beforehand. For example, are you looking for an olive oil that you can use every day for all your cooking needs? Or are you looking for something to drizzle over grilled seafood or toss into salad dressings? Once you delve into the vast world of the best olive oils, you’ll find yourself considering factors other than price and volume, and you’ll never look back.
“It’s all about quality and production when choosing a good olive oil,” says Dominique Lombardo, Rezdôra’s executive pastry chef. But what exactly should you look for when shopping? First, examine the bottle. If it’s dark glass or completely matte, you’re probably onto a good thing, because natural light is olive oil’s worst enemy. Then read the label. “Look at the label of hand-picked, cold-pressed olives,” says Odette Williams, author of simple pasta. “If the bottle has a date on it, you’re onto a good thing.” Other words you might want to look up include “first pressing”, “cold pressed”, and “harvest date”, as well as a specific country of origin. Together, these indicate that you are buying high quality olive oil from a producer who maintains their product to a high standard.
Ready to start your olive oil journey? Start here with one of these chef-chosen bottles.
The Best Olive Oils for Every Occasion
A versatile everyday olive oil
If you’re looking for an olive oil that you can use liberally, look for one that balances spiciness and grass, as well as citrus and floral notes. “Pianogrillo Farm Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Sicily is a beautiful all-purpose olive oil with sweet spices,” says Chef Melissa Kelly, James Beard Award winner and head chef at Primo Restaurant. “Its well-balanced taste is why this oil is our workhorse.”
A monovarietal selection with Arbequina olives
When buying olive oil, you can either choose something that is monovarietal, meaning only one type of olive was used, or multivarietal, indicating the bottle is a blend. Juliana Gonzalez, chef of Barceloneta Miami, prefers the former and she has a favorite olive. “My favorite to cook with is Arbequina, like California Olive Ranch Reserve Collection, because it has a delicate flavor, is slightly bitter, and has hints of apples and almonds, which are a perfect match for my style of cooking,” she says. . Chef Stephen Stryjewski, chef and owner of Link Restaurant Group, shares Gonzelez’s love for Arbequina olives: “Arbequina oil is my favorite. I find it to be the most consistent finishing oil with a nice amount of bitterness and bite which I like. ”
Brightland’s Awake is another bottle that contains arbequina olives. This 100% extra virgin olive oil is described as “bold and robust”, ideal for “roasting, sautéing, soups, stews and bread”. Stryjewski swears by The Molino Arbequina, which comes in a gorgeous blue and white bottle you’ll want to keep on display.
A fragrant monovarietal oil from Spain
Are you looking for an olive oil with a particularly fruity and sweet taste? Consider Spanish olive oils, which tend to have a richer golden hue. Jake Stevens, chef and co-owner of Leeward, recommends L’Estornell organic extra virgin olive oil, a Catalan bottle made from 100% arbequina olives. With a clean, fruity profile, “it’s excellent as a finishing oil or for dressing salads,” he says. “Since it’s not overly herbaceous or peppery, it doesn’t overshadow more subtle dishes.”
A heritage bottle from the Italian coast
While Spanish olive oils tend to be milder, Italian olive oils are more grassy and grassy. Its more your speed? Consider the Sicilian Bona Furtuna Biancolilia Centinara, ideal for finishing dishes. “Bona Furtuna has rediscovered this ancient varietal and brought it back from the brink of extinction,” says Karen Akunowicz, James Beard Foundation Award winner and chef/owner of Fox & the Knife. “It has strong vegetal qualities and hints of wild herbs and dried flowers.” (Bonus: Akunowicz is currently working with the farm on creating its own olive oil, which is slated for release in 2023.)
The perfect bottle for salad dressings and salad dressing
When making a vinegar-based salad dressing, you don’t want anything particularly peppery, grassy, or lemony. Instead, look for an olive oil that is mild and even without high notes. “I like to use Moulin CastelaS Noir d’Olive from Provence, France,” says Kelly. “This buttery and sweet oil with notes of black fruits is perfect for our vinaigrettes and emulsified sauces. Another olive oil chosen by experts for salad dressings is Herdade Do Esporão Portuguese Extra Virgin Olive Oil. “It’s smooth, balanced and great for dressing and finishing,” says Williams.
A high quality choice for baking
To determine the best olive oil for cooking, we turned to Lombardo. “For our olive oil cake and olive oil ice cream, we finish it with Franci IGP extra virgin olive oil,” she says. “This olive oil takes desserts to the next level because you can taste the quality in every bite.”
An olive oil ready for seafood
Due to the delicate flavor of most types of seafood and shellfish, chefs recommend using an olive oil that is neither too hot nor too spicy. “For fish and seafood, I like to use Ligurian olive oil made from Taggiasca olives,” says Rezdôra executive chef Stefano Secchi. “The oil is very light in intensity but still nice and viscous.” As for Cody Cheetham, executive chef of Tavernetta, his favorite choice for seafood is the Veneto Valpolicella produced by Frantoio Bonamini. “This oil is light and shiny and very versatile,” he says. “I use it as a finishing oil on fish and seafood dishes, like our Whole Grilled Branzino and our Maine Lobster and Calabrian Chili Tagliatelle.”
A family option to buy in bulk
While buying a huge jug is an objectively efficient way to shop, the quality of bulk olive oil is sometimes disappointing. That said, there are some great options out there. Williams recommends Partanna, which is produced in the province of Trapani in Sicily. “It’s a versatile neutral oil for cooking, fresh and rich in flavor,” she says. Stryjewski, meanwhile, sticks to another affordable jug: “I always have the Kirkland Organic Extra Virgin brand in the house and use it for just about everything.”