12 Olive Oils for Cooking, Dressing, Dipping and Everything In Between

Your guide to what kind of olive oil to use when.

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February 18, 2021
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Photo by: Johner Images/Getty Images

Johner Images/Getty Images

By Alexis Pisciotta for Food Network Kitchen

With all the options in the market right now, choosing an olive oil can be overwhelming. Arbequina? Kalamata? Dark green in color or golden like straw? The good news is, there are lots of good quality oils out there, with all different flavor profiles, at many different price points. Once you know what to look for, with a few rules of thumb, the rest is simple.

How to Buy and Store Olive Oil

Freshness is the most important factor. The volatile compounds that make olive oil so delicious are also really sensitive to heat, air and light. You’ll want to store your oils in a cool, dark place. That’s why the bottles themselves are often, but not always, dark in color, or in an opaque tin. Oil stays fresh in a sealed container for up to two years tops, but is best for only one year, provided it hasn’t been improperly stored and handled. Look for "best-by" dates to help you with this. If you open a bottle of oil, it should smell fresh and fruity. If it smells musty or like damp cardboard, it’s gone off and belongs in the trash. Even cooking with it will transfer those flavors to your food. Once a container is open, it can spoil within a few months, so it might not make sense to buy the big tin of oil to save money if you aren’t going to use it that often.

What Are the Different Kinds of Olive Oil?

For the different types of oil, extra virgin is the least refined, and extra light is the most refined. A more refined oil will have less flavor and a higher smoke point, and extra virgin retains the most character of the fruit. Classic olive oils, pure olive oils and others are in between, and there isn’t a consistent system categorizing them. A common misconception, though, is that you can’t cook with extra virgin olive oil because of its lower smoke point, but you actually can, you just need to pair the right oil with its task. For instance, it doesn’t make sense to use a really expensive oil for cooking as many of the compounds that give it nuanced, complex flavors are destroyed when heating.

Finally, olive oils can have all sorts of flavor profiles. Some are spicy, fruity, bitter or nutty. If you know spicy isn’t your thing, then that’s okay! Here are 12 oils we like and some ideas to get you started.

Filippo Berio Olive Oil Extra Light Tasting is refined, making it lighter, more neutral in flavor and have a higher smoke point, which is good for when you are holding oil at a high temperature for a longer time. It’s great in cakes as a substitute for vegetable oil. Fried foods cook up lighter than with traditional olive oils and taste cleaner and brighter.

Buy It
$17.99

Grilling and searing foods give them stronger flavors. A full-flavored moderately-priced oil like Colavita Select stands up well, so you can taste it against the char. Fruity and spicy, it’s a versatile oil when you want something a little bolder in the kitchen.

Buy It

California Olive Ranch is a softer oil that is fruity and balanced, making it great for vinaigrettes. Some chefs use a blend of olive oil and a neutral oil in dressings so the oil doesn’t overpower the other flavors, but this oil can do the job of both.

Buy It
$39.95

Frantoio Foiano 1979 is an intensely spicy, complex oil with notes of espresso and grass. It doesn’t need anything else, just grab a piece of bread to temper the burn, savor all the different flavors, and try not to make that a meal.

Buy It
$21.97 (2 pack)

There are other reasons that Zoe is a great all-purpose oil to have around than the fact that it comes in large tins at a good price. It’s buttery and fruity, with nice body, and works in a wide range of uses from making focaccia, to aioli, to sweating mirepoix for stew.

Buy It
$36.63

Iliada is a versatile Greek oil made from one variety of olive, the Koroneiki. It has a buttery, super olive-y flavor with tropical fruit notes. Its subtlety makes it delicious drizzled over steamed vegetables like asparagus or string beans then sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Buy It
$39.95

I have been loving this appropriately-named bright-green oil for years and this year is no exception. Olio Verde Olio Novello 2020 is super grassy, yet smooth, with a slow, low, long burn. Its low in acid, so perfect for tomatoes. Bathe your heirlooms in it with some basil or drizzle it on sauces and soups.

Buy It
$40.57

It’s fine that Laudemio isn’t sold in a dark colored glass bottle. It’s meant to be finished quickly, and that won’t be hard to do. This oil eats as clean and bright as it looks, and finishes spicy, as Tuscan oils tend to do. Try it with beans where the spice cuts through the creaminess and compliments the flavor instead of covering it. Or use it as a topping for bruschetta where it will allow the ingredients to shine.

Buy It
$49.75

Tenuta di Capezzana is a balanced and elegant oil. Its dark green and cloudy because it’s unfiltered. It’s delicate nutty flavor is delicious drizzled on citrus or to dress up a simple herby salsa verde.

Buy It
$29.99

After many rounds of sampling, my olive-oil-loving eight-year-old daughter proclaimed Frantoi Cutera Primo as her hands down favorite and I can see why. Its super fresh tasting, with little burn. I especially like it with seafood where that freshness compliments briny flavors and she likes it with anything and everything, which is also a good sign.

Buy It
$8.99

Sparta Gourmet Organic Extra Virgin Olive oil is a great value. At around $8.99 a liter it’s a high-quality, balanced and versataile oil at a great price.

Buy It
$20

If you love olive oil, but don’t necessarily pour it on everything, you might want one that will last longer and is guaranteed to stay fresh. Gaea Fresh Limited Edition oil is pressed within 3 hours of harvest and bottled in their own unique way keeping it fresh for extended periods of time. Another added plus: It’s the first olive oil to be certified carbon neutral!

Buy It

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