Liquid gold: Eight low-cost olive oils put to the taste test

Cheap doesn’t always have to mean nasty and with olive oil in just about everyone’s cupboards these days it’s worth seeing what the cheapest is like.
Liquid gold: Eight low-cost olive oils put to the taste test

Cheap doesn’t always have to mean nasty and with olive oil in just about everyone’s cupboards these days it’s worth seeing what the cheapest is like.

The lowest priced are sold in plastic bottles, but we really must vote with our feet and only buy glass, recyclable bottles or cans. Olive oil has an acidic content, so it can absorb unhealthy PVCs from plastic.

Another approach is to seek out shops which offer a refill service, such as Bradleys Off licence & Food store, Cork, where you fill your own bottle from a tap for €9 a litre.

Extra virgin olive oil is more expensive than oil labelled simply ‘olive oil’. The natural chemicals in extra virgin oil form compounds when heated high and can be cancerous.

If food is cooked slowly at a low temperature in extra virgin oil, that chemical change won’t occur. Ideally, add at the end of cooking to enrich flavour and silkiness.

Think of it as a condiment and add a teaspoonful to a bowl of soup, a serving of vegetables, salads.

This adds to the power of a nutritious salad with unsaturated fats in the oil and vitamin E for improved immune function, heart, cancer, ulcers and arthritis, even premature senility — a lot to ask of the humble olive.

Perhaps it’s best to use olive oil as part of an overall healthy diet, giving us a fighting chance of avoiding disease.

The Real Olive Company Extremadura 700ml €8 (€11.42/litre)

A delicious fruitiness here makes the best taste of the selection. Cold pressed,  you could almost drink it by the spoon. From a range which can be refilled for a saving of €1 per bottle. Also, 5lt containers work out at €7/litre.

Score: 9.5

Marks & Spencer 500ml €4.40 (€8.80/litre)

Dark bottles, like this, are best for olive oil to prevent deterioration (an opened bottle will last up to 24 months). This one is quite fruity with a light acidity that is especially good for hot new potatoes.

Score: 8

Lidl Primadonna 500ml €3.69 (€7.38/litre)

The label here reminds us that cloudy or solidifying oil is not a problem. Bring to kitchen temperature and heat gently if necessary. This light oil has less flavour and less of an acid kick than other samples which might suit some palates.

Score: 7.75

Aldi Puglian 500ml €4.29 (€8.58/litre)

Puglia, in the heel of Italy, gets plenty of dry heat which often means a fruity style. Cold extraction mentioned on the label means no nutrients are lost through high heat from speedy machines in the course of production. A lovely smooth flavour has a nice pepperiness at the end.

Score: 8.25

Iceland Gomo 500ml €3.50 (€7/litre)

A mix of olives from the EU allows this to be produced cheaper than many, in Italy. The second cheapest of our selection, it’s light on flavour and acidity, so a good introductory oil.

Score: 7.75

Kolymvari Gold 1 litre €8.80

Cold extracted, this Greek oil is in a clear bottle, so keep in the dark to avoid deterioration. Lovely fruitiness, not too acidic. A good all rounder from Mr Bells Cork’s English market stall.

Score: 9

SuperValu Signature Tastes 500ml €5.99 (€11.98/litre)

This Greek oil is silky with little fruit or acidity, but elegant. A good starter oil for salads.

Score: 8

Dunnes Stores Spanish 750ml €4.89 (€6.52/litre)

Not much fruitiness with a peppery finish makes this an oil suitable for hot vegetables or dressings with plenty of added seasoning. At this price, the lowest of the selection, you can afford to be lavish.

Score: 8

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