In general you’re looking for an oil someone has taken some care with, from growing to pressing to bottling, even to shipping and storing. Pay attention—choose an oil that gives you flavor, is one you can afford, and, above all, is one you like. And if you think the only great olive oils are imported, guess again. A California olive oil, DaVero, has ranked at the top or near the top in some blind tastings, even when pitted again Italian oils in Italy. DaVero happens to be served in some big name restaurants, too. Mario Batali—owner of Babbo in NYC as well as several other restaurants and host of "Molto Mario" (now in reruns)—has called DaVero Estate Oil "Golden green elixir."
Jon Ashton, a chef who has hosted his own TV shows, cooking classes and runs a blog, advises to "buy the best extra-virgin olive oil we can afford, for general cooking."
Below, our six top tips to consider while you search for your favorite:
1. Know your own personal preference. You've got to taste a few to know if you prefer a certain fruitiness vs. a hint of bitter, etc.
2. You can ignore the color. Although a good extra-virgin should be a nice green, this can be artificially altered.
3. A metallic sense to the taste means the oil is rancid. Take it back!
4. Save the very best, boldest tastes for oils you use to finish a dish. To cook with you probably don't need so much flavor. So you may want to have several oils on hand for cooking, dressings, finishing.
5. Taste oils from several countries. Spain, Italy, Greece, even the U.S., are all producing quality olive oils, but with different characteristics.
6. Once you have it home, store oil in a cool dark place.
Still need to know more? You can read a lot over at The Olive Oil Source but there's nothing like tasting to really get to know what you like. So get out there and cook!