/ Food & Drink, Shopping
Bottles of olive oil

Supermarket shelves are lined with dozens of different oils, making decision-making tricky. If you’re after extra virgin olive oil, we’ve got some bargain-hunting tips to make choosing easier.

When shopping for oil, you might just feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice available to you. Sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, coconut oil, several different types of olive oil (including some that are sold in spray cans)… The list goes on.

I’m personally a fan of rapeseed oil for cooking, and extra virgin olive oil for making something like a salad dressing (on the relatively rare occasion I’ll opt for a salad over a burger). I guess this is probably more out of habit than anything else – any recommendations, anyone?

We’ve just enlisted an expert panel to test some premium versions of extra virgin olive oil you can buy in supermarkets, and we were surprised by some of our findings. The experts also helped us discover more about the fascinating world of extra virgin olive oil, like how it takes about 5kg of olives to produce one litre.

Oils on offer

My name is Oli, I’m 23 years old, and I’m a committed bargain-chaser. Should you ever have the veritable pleasure of spotting me in a cereal aisle in the supermarket, you’ll find me scouring the shelves for an offer, or closely examining unit prices like a dog would a tennis ball.

I’m the same with oil, too. I’ve found that extra virgin olive oil is on offer so often that I instinctively turn my nose up at the idea of paying full price.

We tracked the supermarket prices of Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Napolina Extra Virgin Olive Oil from 13 April 2015 to 12 April 2016, using the independent price-tracking site, mysupermarket.co.uk, and found that you shouldn’t have to spend much more than £3 for 500ml for either.

Asda was the best place to buy Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil (500ml), with the cheapest average price of £3.04 – plus it was on sale for 25 weeks for £3 or less, and for 13 of these you could buy it for just £2.

Sainsbury’s had the lowest average price for Napolina Extra Virgin Olive oil (500ml) of £3.07, and you could get it for £3 or less for 24 weeks of the year. At Morrisons it was typically £3.18, but for £3 or less for 23 weeks – and for seven of these weeks it was available for £2.

Extraordinary uses for extra virgin olive oil

We asked Which? members what they used extra virgin olive oil for, and were largely unsurprised to find that many use it for cooking, or as a salad dressing or dip.

I’d never used extra virgin olive oil for anything other than a culinary purpose, so I was amazed to hear of a wide range other uses. I’m yet to use it as a method of removing ear wax, and I’ll likely never use it as a beauty product, but it was fascinating to think of it as such a versatile substance.

If you use extra virgin olive oil for anything other than for food, I’m intrigued to hear about it – let me know below.

You can see the results of our olive oil taste test and investigation in the July issue of Which? magazine.


Just as a background to the matter of olive oil and to save anyone falling for the common heading 69% of olive oil is fake:

It is true that there is/was a large amount of smuggling of oil to Italy from Spain so a higher price can be attached when re-exported. To read an entertaining expose and other information:


While discussing olive oil, it would be useful to have authoritative information about whether it is hazardous to use the oil for frying, as suggested a year or two ago.


Oli the author appears to favour the unhealthy rapeseed for cooking !

” On Trust Me, I’m a Doctor we decided to look at things from a different angle by asking: “Which fats and oils are best to cook with?” You might think it is obvious that frying with vegetable oils has to be healthier than cooking with animal fat, like lard or butter. But is it really?”

Lard, butter, olive oil, goose fat and coconut oil all being better according to the BBC programme in 2015


I think we will need to see more research before we can be sure of what to provide as official advice, but there is now ample evidence that its best to minimise consumption of food cooked at high temperature.


Carbohydrates cooked at high temperatures are classed as carcinogens.


Indeed, though high temperature cooking of proteins in meat is probably a greater problem with regard to cancer. The traditional way of stewing meat is to brown it in the oil or fat of your choice and then add other ingredients and water. There is no need to include this stage.

dieseltaylor says:
23 June 2016

A subject dear to my heart as I was a food-taster when the science first broke in 2001 and I have followed it closely ever since. The comment of the NZ Health Officer the following year that the odds were that you would be dead from something else before these carcinogens would get you sort of put it into perspective for me.

Bottom line is we are all going to die , but worrying is perhaps the biggest cause of avoidable premature death in my view.

I did give the job up as an awful lot of tasting of sausages and crisps was required several days a week. No point in bucking the odds : )


Thing is, the meat is far tastier when it is browned first, to seal in the flavour – just as you do when cooking a steak or a joint. We are unlikely to shorten most of our lives greatly by indulging in such practices, and as we all have to die at some point, may as well enjoy life while we have it. So many things in life are a risk; we should not let them scare us into avoiding them just in case.


Friends have died as a result of bowel cancer, which is one of the reasons I pay attention to what I eat. That’s why I’m interested in finding out the best available advice on cooking with olive oil compared with alternatives.

Ann Eastman says:
4 August 2016

According to a cookery book written by an eminent cancer specialist at the Royal Free Hospital in London, olive oil is excellent for cooking, BUT it should not be used for high temperature frying.


That’s right. As the temperature rises the oil changes its chemical make-up.

Simon Poole says:
5 September 2016

Good question. There is a lot of misinformation around. The European Food Safety Authority, based on numerous studies including data from the EPIC study, have concluded it is safe to cook with extra virgin olive oil. Though some of the antioxidants are consumed, a significant proportion are maintained. The “smoke point” of a good quality extra virgin olive oil will be higher than the average temperature of most roasting/ frying ie below 190 degrees. In fact there is now research to show that the absorption of fat soluble vitamins and polyphenols is improved when EVOO is the cooking medium… It is the most ubiquitous fat used in cooking as well as drizzling in the regions known for the famously healthy Mediterranean Diet


It would have been useful to have some insight into how the supermarket own-label oils compare for quality with the highly-priced branded products or whether consumers are literally paying for the fancy Italian-style retro labels. Olive oil is just another bulk commodity traded internationally and although I know users who swear by their preferred ingredients I suspect the differences are not worth the money overall. For people who like to show off the bottle I suppose it’s important but we decant olive oil into a flask to put on the table. Unfortunately there have not been many al fresco eating opportunities this year.

Incidentally, I had never thought of putting a salad over a burger before reading the Intro as it’s usually the other way round on my plate. But it makes sense if you wish to drip a drop or two of oil over the salad. We are never too old to learn and Which? continues to teach.

dieseltaylor says:
23 June 2016

To find out which is the cheapest major supermarket to shop at, we analyse the price of between 70 and 100 popular branded food and grocery products every month. Our comparison is based on the prices supplied by online supermarkets Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Tesco, Waitrose Deliver and Ocado. Read more: http://www.which.co.uk/reviews/supermarkets/article/supermarket-price-comparison – Which?

I am not clear why Lidl and Aldi are still not included in this exercise given the huge number of shops and share of the market. I also note that the prices are based on “online supermarkets” however the title of the piece “Supermarket price comparison” does not indicate this at all.

Given basics like my olive oil are bought from Aldi and Waitrose I am very interested in comparisons of quality, and if they are of any significance.

Incidentally the flavour of olive oil used cold for dressings is a separate subject and I am sure we would appreciate some comments on that.