August 9, 2004

CR’s taste-tests and lab analyses of 18 extra-virgin olive oils showed an oil costing 24 cents per ounce was nearly as good as oils costing more than $1.20 per ounce; terms such as “extra virgin” are not verified by the U.S. government; and manufacturers play labeling games: Oils marked “Italian” may include olives harvested elsewhere. The best all-purpose choices are Goya, a CR Best Buy at 24 cents per oz., Lucini at 71 cents per oz., and California Olive Ranch at 76 cents per oz. Best used for cooking are Goya, Tassos, Filippo Berio, Bertolli, Kirkland, and Monini Originale. Two oils that received the highest overall score—McEvoy Ranch ($1.54 per ounce) and B.E. Cohn ($1.21 per ounce)—are best used for drizzling. CR offers advice for how to choose extra-virgin olive oil based on your cooking style and what you eat.
This report also covers the health angle: There is some evidence that people who consume a lot of olive oil may have a lower risk of developing breast and colon cancer. But olive oil is by no means a health food—it has about 120 calories and 14 grams of fat, about the same as other oils. However, it is undoubtedly better for you than butter, beef fat, palm kernel oil, coconut oils, and margarines that contain trans fats. CR explains the terms experts use to describe olive oil taste, and helps shoppers understand “extra virgin” product labels.