shelf life, and may appear cloudy if those particles haven’t settled at the bottom of the bottle.
“Pure” or simply olive oil is below extra-virgin and virgin standards and is heavily processed to remove off-flavors and aromas. Though the oil still is a source of monounsaturated fat, it’s been stripped of healthful polyphenols.
“Light,” “lite” and “extra-light” are purely marketing terms used on highly refined oils that refer to mild flavor and/or color, not reduced calorie content.
“Product of Italy” means the oil was processed in Italy, not necessarily that the olives were grown there. You can find oils that use solely Italian olives—or olives from Greece or California.
Often made from olives from single estates or particular growing regions, these high-quality artisan oils have more distinct flavors—and are more expensive. When seeking out these oils, look for seals and designations as helpful indications of quality.
Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (DOP) in Italy, Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in France and Denomination of Origin (DOP) throughout the European Union (EU) identify products produced, processed and prepared in regions known for expertise in that particular product.
The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) and International Olive Council (IOC) certify and give their mark to quality extra-virgin olives oils, from California and the EU respectively, based on taste and quality.
Below are some (seven) of the highest rated** real olive oils:
- Pompeian Extra virgin olive Oil
Pompeian olive oil polarized reviewers with its taste and smell
- Divina Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Many tasters agreed that Divina olive oil smelled clean and woody, but the product failed to deliver in flavor
- Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Although this oil received some points for its floral and herbaceous smell, its extremely bitter flavor sparked intense reactions as well.
Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This olive oil was praised for its “fresh” and “mellow” scent
- California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This very mellow, light-tasting oil has an almost sweet nuttiness and a fruity scent reminiscent of green olives
- Monini Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The perfect all-in-one oil, with a lightness that’s also surprisingly rich and complex. A peppery kick at the end gives it some oomph. Try it for making pesto or cooking shellfish.
- Whole Foods 365 Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The house brand of the Whole Foods Market chain has an intensely robust olive taste — and a much lower price than most top-grade oils.
**All ratings are from the last major testing and competition in 2012**
RELATED: Why Is Olive Oil So Good For You?
What You Need to Know about Smoke Point
You might have heard that you can’t cook with extra-virgin olive oil because it breaks down when heated, creating harmful substances and destroying its beneficial properties. But all oils break down when they are heated to their smoke point or reheated repeatedly.
However, an oil’s smoke point is really a temperature range (olive oil’s is between 365-420°F), not an absolute number because many factors affect the chemical properties of oil.
You can safely and healthfully cook with any oil by not heating it until it’s smoking—to get your oil hot enough to cook with, heat it until it shimmers.
In a study, some bottles of the following brands failed to meet extra-virgin olive oil standards:
- Filippo Berio
- Newman’s Own
- Rachel Ray
- Whole Foods
Remember, do your homework. Find a reputable company or source and buy small bottles from them.