I watch cooking shows often. I see chefs finish a dish with olive oil.

Why do chef's finish their dish with olive oil? What is the reasoning for this?

Is it purely a presentation or is it just taste? I know olive oil isn't the most pleasant thing to eat by itself.

  • 6
    Good olive oil is a very pleasant thing to eat by itself (or on a slice of warm bread)! I actually know a few places in Italy where you can go olive oil-tasting (same as wine tasting, but you're served different kinds of oil).
    – nico
    Sep 5, 2011 at 15:19

4 Answers 4


For an astringent/bitter twist to the flavour, for a scent, and the visual gloss effect **

Mediterranean people have been doing this for centuries

For best effect they are probably using a first cold press oil (Extra-virgin) from young olive trees (less than 50 years old). It is often quite green in colour and has a pungent and astringent odour

These are often only available from boutique olive farmers, in expensive small quantities e.g. Rangihoua Estate or Azzuro Groves. Expect prices around NZ$50 to NZ$100 per litre

It is sort of similar in concept to squeezing a fresh lemon over a dish

It's a bit over fashionable at the moment, but in some dishes it really works

** the three s's - sap(or), scent, shine

  • 13
    Another reason why extra virgin olive oil might be added at the end is because its flavor and taste are altered (usually for the worse) from heat.
    – ESultanik
    Sep 4, 2011 at 13:02
  • 2
    Yes or course it does. It's amazing how many people add extra virgin olive oil to a hot pan! Same applies to lemon juice, aged malt vinegar, or most other contrast glazes
    – TFD
    Sep 5, 2011 at 1:33
  • 1
    Extra virgin olive oil is a staple of the mediterranean diet, and one of the reasons is that you can get a liter for 4 euros (less than 7 NZ$), which makes it a viable to keep it use it frequently.
    – Agos
    Sep 9, 2011 at 22:28

The reason is to enhance the presentation. Oil or butter gives a gleam to the dish. As TFD indicates, you can (should) use a quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) for added flavor, but the real reason is plate appeal.

  • 6
    Hmmm, I always knew of it as more than just that. It's the three s's - sap(or), scent, shine. The sap' and scent should contrast the dish. so we often have lemon juice, olive oil, or a custom glaze. Try an aged malt vinegar on your bangers (sausages) next time, stupendous!
    – TFD
    Sep 4, 2011 at 12:39

olive oil adds a flavor and mouth-feel that most people find pleasant, and it is very effective even in small amounts. BUT, it is sensitive to heat and its taste changes quite rapidly when in a hot pan, so this is why your add some at the end.

I personally may start a dish with an olive oil soffritto and then add some more olive oil at the end, if I feel that it is a useful addition.


Another thing to keep in mind is that everybody "knows" that olive oil is super healthy and good for you. Therefore if you want to make your dish glisten, might as well use olive oil.

After all, the Mediterranean Diet uses a lot of olive oil and those people don't get heart disease, right? In reality, the answer isn't as simple as that of course, but it certainly won't hurt you and may indeed have some benefits, especially if it is used instead of seed oils.

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