Money Wise--A Lesson in Olive Oil

When it comes to olive oil, there are lots of choices out there. When you have so many options, which one do you grab?

Patrick Best works at 45 Bistro, one of Savannah's most popular restaurants. He uses olive oil in several of his signature dishes, but he doesn't always use the same one.

"You should try as many as you can and find out what you like and what your family likes," he advised.

But, because of its price, dabbling with different brands may not be an option. "The reason olive oil costs so much is because of the way its harvested," Best explained.  "Olives, especially extra virgin, is harvested by hand."

And that's the one that costs the most. The good news though is that of all the olive oils on the shelf, it's the one you'll probably use the least of, like on salads or as a dipping oil. The one that is typically moderately priced depending on the brand is a light or regular olive oil, and that's the one Best recommends for frying or grilling. But, which brand do you buy?

"It's like wine," Best said. "You don't need the most expensive bottle to get what you want."

Believe it or not, he makes his choice by taking a big whiff to check for a fruity smell, a little sip to feel for a good flow, and then by comparing colors. For extra virgin olive oil, he looks specifically for a deep green.

Once it's opened, Best tries to use his olive oil as soon as possible, so it doesn't go bad. "Olive oil should be [kept] no longer than 18 months," he said.

And from there, he creates dishes that, without olive oil, wouldn't be the same.

Consumer Reports magazine recently did a story on olive oils, and they agree with Patrick Best, saying high price doesn't always mean high quality. Out of 18 brands, the most expensive called McEvoy topped the list, but Goya brand, the least expensive, got the Consumer Reports best buy award, for best all-around quality.

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Reported by: Dmitra Denmark,