Essential oils (EOs) are liquid mixtures of volatile compounds obtained from aromatic plants. Many EOs have antioxidant properties, and the use of EOs as natural antioxidants is a field of growing interest because some synthetic antioxidants such as BHA and BHT are now suspected to be potentially harmful to human health. Addition of EOs to edible products, either by direct mixing or in active packaging and edible coatings, may therefore represent a valid alternative to prevent autoxidation and prolong shelf life. The evaluation of the antioxidant performance of EOs is, however, a crucial issue, because many commonly used "tests" are inappropriate and give contradictory results that may mislead future research. The chemistry explaining EO antioxidant activity is discussed along with an analysis of the potential in food protection. Literature methods to assess EOs' antioxidant performance are critically reviewed.