I was alerted, along with other writers, on a recent professional visit to Spice Island cooking school at San Remo near Phillip Island (Victoria), that not all oils are the same…and healthy oils can turn unhealthy when heated.
This chef’s secret came from Paul Stafford, who owns and runs the cooking school and is also an experienced commercial caterer. Faced with the option to choose what oil we should use to fry a meat dish, many of us assumed that extra virgin olive oil was unsurpassed in the kitchen.
Yes, he said, it was perfect for drizzling over bread and for salad dressings and other applications that did not require it to be heated. But – and here comes the most interesting part – olive oil quickly breaks down when heated.
Paul explained about the ‘smoke point’ of cooking oils after which their molecular structure starts to change, fatty acids breakdown resulting not only in a flavour change, but the nutritional value also degrades. Extra virgin olive oil’s smoke point is about 190 degrees celsius, which he said was one of the lowest smoke points among commonly used oils.
One of the highest smoke points belongs to rice bran oil (254C), which is extracted from the whole brown rice germ and inner husk. It is a well balanced oil with cholesterol reducing properties as well as nutritional and anti-oxidant benefits.
We were curious so we tried it straight from the bottle – tastes a bit nutty, but that seems to disappear in cooking and it leaves no after taste like some of the olive oil varieties. Being less viscous also means less oil is absorbed by the food in the cooking process.
Since our class with Paul I have tried the rice bran oil in cooking and in salad dressings – so the good oil is to reach for the rice bran and save the extra virgin for crusty sourdough and some aged balsamic.
As a commercial caterer, Paul says an added bonus is that the rice bran oil costs less.
– Graeme Kemlo