The Kirkland Olive Oil Costco Shoppers Might Want To Stock Up On

Correction 7/5/22: This article originally stated that "household sales for olive oil were up 43% in 2020." Olive oil's "household penetration" was up 43%, while sales increased by 23% that year.

More now than ever before, home cooks are reaching for olive oil while cooking. According to a February report from the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA), olive oil's "household penetration" (as in, the number of households using olive oil) was up 43% in 2020. The spike in sales is likely a result of the numerous reports touting the health benefits of olive oil and the popularity of the Mediterranean Diet, which led to Americans seeing the value per ounce of this liquid gold. 

Olive oil can be purchased in several different qualities. The highest quality is "extra virgin olive oil" (EVOO) which is cold-pressed with a fruity, natural taste and low acidity. The next level is "virgin olive oil," pure like EVOO but milder in flavor and slightly more acidic. (However, the NAOOA notes that "virgin" and "refined olive oil" aren't commonly available in the U.S.) The final oil for consumer consumption is regular "olive oil," which can also be labeled "pure olive oil" or "refined olive oil," which is a blend of different refined oils and 10-15% of virgin olive oil. The higher the oil quality, the more fruity and flavorful the oil.

Unfortunately, the advertising execs of Madison Avenue have made buying the right olive oil more complicated. According to NAOOA, home cooks should take note of expiration dates, country of origin, quality assurance seals, and even the bottle. With so many factors to consider, how do home cooks know they're getting what they are paying for?

Costco's extra virgin olive oil for the win

According to chef Samin Nosrat, NY Times columnist, cookbook author, and host of "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat" on Netflix, one kitchen must-have is the Kirkland Signature "Organic Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil." In an episode of the podcast "Forever 35," Nosrat says of the Costco brand, "It's made in Italy and is super delicious and inexpensive. There's an annual blind tasting of olive oils, done by this olive oil organization in California, and this olive oil consistently rates really high, sometimes even the highest for widely available olive oils. It's really clean of impurities, and it tastes really good." Fans of Nosrat won't require any more convincing, especially if you've seen her prepare the EVOO bathed focaccia on her show. 

The merits of Kirkland's EVOO are also sung by The Strategist and, adding the oil has a "ripe olive, nutty and buttery [flavor] with slight herbaceous green notes." Its packaging contains standards and grades from different organizations listing origin, expiration dates, and harvest date on some blends. All are packaged in dark plastic, protecting the oil from light — an excellent value for some.

Unfortunately, the packaging size makes this a poor choice for those cooking for one or few. Since it's a natural product that can turn rancid, NAOOA advises only purchasing enough oil for a few months of cooking, as oxygen, light, and heat can degrade the product over time.