Best Cheap Olive Oil
- Published on
- By Elizabeth Sheer
Conventional wisdom holds that cheap olive oil works fine in a stir-fry or marinade, because the taste is either cooked out or combined with other, more prominent flavors. Salad dressings, freshly baked bread, and the like would seem to call for only the best olive oil. It's quite possible to go into a specialty or gourmet store -- even an olive oil boutique such as O & Co. (located on the East Coast, in Denver, and online) -- and drop $50 on a 500 ml bottle. We were curious to see, though, how cheap olive oils really stack up when they aren't cooked. To find out, we assembled 11 hungry people, five oils, and a pile of semolina bread slices. We found that the best olive oil for finishing salads or drizzling over pasta might not be most expensive. In a blind test, our panel of tasters favored relatively inexpensive Goya over higher-priced bottles.
Cheap Olive Oil Taste Test
We asked the tasters in our olive oil review to comment on the appearance, flavor, and aftertaste of five oils: Colavita ($6.59 for 250 ml, or 78 cents per ounce), Bertolli ($8.49 for 500 ml, or 50 cents per ounce), Pompeian ($4.19 for 250 ml, also 50 cents per ounce), Goya ($3.99 for 250 ml, or 47 cents per ounce), and Trader Joe's President's Reserve ($5.99 for 1 liter, or 18 cents per ounce). The tasters did not know which oils they were sampling; the contenders were decanted into similar containers and labeled A through E. All were extra virgin, generally considered the best variety for dunking or drizzling.
While it seemed safe to assume that Colavita, the most expensive brand, would sweep the tasting, to our amazement, the winner was relatively cheap Goya. The tasters described it as "lemony" with a "peppery aftertaste" and very little bitterness. What's more, another cheap brand, Pompeian, emerged as our runner-up for best olive oil.
Appearance.Colavita is the only oil of the five in our olive oil review that comes in a green bottle; the others come in clear bottles. This matters because light is an enemy of olive oil, as cooking blog The Kitchn explains. (Of course, this did not influence the tasters, because they didn't see the bottles.) If you buy cheap olive oil in a large bottle, decant it into something smaller and put the rest in the pantry. Keep it away from the stove, too -- another enemy is heat.
The appearance of the olive oils in our test containers was remarkably similar. Some testers thought the Trader Joe's and Pompeian olive oils looked slightly greener, but otherwise all seemed to have the same golden hue.