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The Best Premium Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

High-end extra-virgin olive oils offer a world of flavor beyond grocery-store options. But if you want to trade up, where do you begin?


Published Mar. 1, 2017. Appears in Cook's Illustrated November/December 2006, America's Test Kitchen TV Season 21: Rustic Italian Fare

A Note on Our Chart
We tasted 10 premium extra-virgin olive oils selected from the most recent harvest from a broad selection of countries in the Northern Hemisphere. We singled out a crowd-pleaser that appealed to all our tasters, but otherwise we didn’t rank these oils. Instead, we categorized them by their flavor profiles (from mild to robust) based on our tasters’ comments. Please note this is an exception from our usual chart format where products appear in order of preference.

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What You Need To Know

Extra-virgin olive oil, the lush, vibrant product of fresh olives, is premium by definition. At least, it should be. But as we reported in our story about supermarket olive oils, most of what you’ll find doesn’t deserve that prestigious label. The oils are either mislabeled as a higher grade; mishandled so that their bright, complex flavor turns rancid; or even fraudulently blended with other, cheaper oils and passed off as the real deal.

Only one of the oils we sampled in that tasting, from California Olive Ranch, was a cut above the rest—“rich” and “fruity,” with a “peppery aftertaste.” At $0.59 per ounce, it’s one of the pricier supermarket options but costs just a fraction of what you’ll spend on a bottle of premium extra-virgin. Which led us to ask: Since the good stuff sells for twice as much as or more than California Olive Ranch does, what are you getting for your money? We decided to find out.

Our supermarket olive oil tasting taught us that freshness is the most important consideration when buying extra-virgin olive oil, since it begins to degrade as soon as it’s pressed, and this depreciation happens even faster when the oil is exposed to air, heat, and light. So we narrowed down the countless number of producers worldwide by first zeroing in on premium oils produced in the Northern Hemisphere; that way, every product we chose would be roughly the same age. Then we carefully purchased oil from only the most recent harvest. The final lineup of 10 included oils priced from $0.94 to $2.13 per ounce (plus shipping) from France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Tunisia, Portugal, and the United States. All of the oils are sold online by reliable retailers; some are also available in gourmet shops or select supermarkets.

Our first step was to sample the oils plain, which made it immediately clear that these oils did indeed taste remarkably fresh. As we then tasted them tossed with butter lettuce and a little salt and finally drizzled over a bowl of warm cannellini beans (a typical application in parts of Italy), we marveled at how each oil seemed as distinct as a fingerprint, with flavors we’d never experienced with supermarket oils: “artichoke,” “apples,” “flowers,” “tomato stems,” “watercress,” and even “dark wood.” They didn’t just enliven the lettuce and beans; they elevated the vegetables’ flavors to something out of the ordinary.

By the Numbers

The oils tasted top-notch to us, but to be sure that they truly qualified as “extra-virgin,” we subjected them to chemical testing and a sensory screening. Olive oils are rated for quality through a two-part evaluation, according to standards set by the International Olive Council, the...

Everything We Tested

Recommended - Mild

Recommended - Medium

Recommended - Medium-Robust

Recommended - Robust

*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.

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The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.

Lisa McManus

Lisa is an executive editor for ATK Reviews, cohost of Gear Heads on YouTube, and gadget expert on TV's America's Test Kitchen.