There are actually two types of oyster sauce. The first is bottled oyster sauce—called oyster-flavored sauce. The second is a cooked sauce that contains oyster-flavored sauce —think, for example, about ordering a dish such as "broccoli with oyster sauce" in a Chinese restaurant.
Bottled oyster-flavored sauce is a rich, concentrated mixture of oyster extractives, soy sauce, brine and assorted seasonings. The brown sauce is thick, salty, and strong. It is used sparingly to enhance the flavor of many dishes that have a long list of additional wet and aromatic ingredients.
Cooked oyster sauce is a mixture of various ingredients such as chicken broth, soy sauce, sake, rice wine, sherry, sesame oil, and sugar in addition to prepared oyster-flavored sauce. It is often thickened with cornstarch and tossed with a wide range of vegetables, beef, chicken, and seafood stir-fries.
Despite the fact that bottled oyster-flavored sauce is too strong to be a condiment, we thought it important to take note of each its raw, unadulterated flavor before we used it to make a cooked oyster sauce.
The potent sauce received the same standard comments—"salty," "biting," and "fishy." When we mixed the bottled oyster-flavored sauces with sherry, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and freshly ground pepper and made simple stir-fries, the tasters were able to detect more flavors—perhaps a result of the bottled oyster-flavored sauces, but more likely in response to the cocktail of ingredients.
The most authentic cooked oyster sauce of the group was undoubtedly that which contained our winner. Admittedly intense and somewhat fishy, it was the only sauce with true depth of flavor. Its saltiness was balanced by sweet caramel undertones and the oyster flavor was strong. This sauce, however, is not for the faint of heart. One taster proclaimed, "My American taste buds can't take it." The other bottled oyster sauce didn't seem to add much to the cooked sauces. As one taster put it, the rest "may have well been soy sauce."
Our favorite premium extra-virgin olive oil from a previous tasting, Columela is composed of a blend of intense Picual, mild Hojiblanca, Ocal, and Arbequina olives. This oil took top honors for its fruity flavor and excellent balance. Tasters praised its “big olive aroma, big olive taste” with a “buttery” flavor that is “sweet” and “full,” with a “peppery finish.” One taster said: “It’s very green and fresh—like a squeezed olive.” Another simply wrote: “Fantastic.”
|Spain||$19 for 17 oz|
Tasters noted this oil’s flavor was “much deeper than the other samples,” describing it as “fruity, with a slight peppery finish,” “buttery undertones,” and a “clean, green taste” that was “aromatic, with a good balance.” “It has the flavor that some good EVOOs have,” said one admiring taster.
|Italy||$19.99 for 500 ml ($39.98 per liter)|
Virtually tied for second place, this oil was deemed “round and buttery,” with a “light body” and flavor that was “briny and fruity,” “very fine and smooth,” and “almost herbal,” with “great balance.” “Good olive flavor. I could smell it and taste it,” approved one taster. In a word, “pleasant.”
|Italy||$17.99 for 750 ml ($23.98 per liter)|
|Recommended with Reservations|
A clear step down from the top oils, tasters noted “overall mild” flavor and “very little aroma,” with only a “hint of green olive” and a “hint of spiciness at the end.” In pasta, it was initially “not complex,” but gradually “bloomed in your mouth.” Overall, it was “worthy of a second bite.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$12.49 for 750 ml ($16.65 per liter)|
While some tasters found this oil “sweet” and “buttery” with “medium body” and “slight spice at the end,” others complained that it had “zero olive flavor” and was “so floral it’s almost like eating perfume”; still others noted a “bitter” aftertaste. In pasta, it was “extremely mild” to the point of being “boring.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$10.99 for 750 ml ($14.65 per liter)|
Comments: The best comments tasters could muster were “mild” and “neutral.” Some liked it on pasta (though one called it “Snoozeville”), but complaints were myriad: “metallic,” “soapy,” “briny,” “hints of dirt.” Carped one taster, “I can’t imagine what is in here, but they have a nerve calling it EVOO.”
|Spain||$13.99 for 1 liter|
For complete access to the results,
start a 14-Day Free Trial.
Start Your 14-Day Free Trial Membership
Every Recipe. Every Rating. Every Video from
Every Magazine & Every Episode!
- 8 years of Cook’s Country Foolproof Recipes
- Complete Cook’s Country TV Video Library
- 2,900+ Equipment Ratings and Ingredient Taste Tests
- Step-by-Step Technique Photos
- Save Favorites, Create Menus, Print Shopping Lists