Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Oily Edition - ‘Oils Ain’t Oils, Sol…’

Everyone knows the Usual Suspects when it comes to oils: Olive, Canola & 'Vegetable'. But there are a few perhaps lesser known oils that make for delightful variety in cooking and dressing dishes, as well as having added health benefits. So here's some Words-to-the-Wise about The Good Oil:

The three oils reviewed here are all sourced from mainstream supermarkets, so next time you are strolling down the cooking-oil aisle on grocery-night, have a closer look in the cooking oil section - nestled amongst the 101 varieties of Olive Oil, you should be able to find these three treasures:

Rice Bran Oil
Grape-Seed oil
Green Tea Oil


The Italian Mob may well have based their social structure on the properties of cooking oil: there are Good oils and Bad oils - and sometimes, good oils can ‘turn bad’ – but basically, this is it:

Good oils = cold-pressed, poly-unsaturated
Bad oils = saturated oils & Trans-fats.

Trans-fats are particularly nasty, as these are they guys that raise cholesterol, clog your arteries and generally make life miserable, if they don’t kill you first. Trans-fats are produced by partially hydrogenating oils to make them more saturated. There's nothing much good about trans fats in our bodies - production has mainly been driven by commercial pressures, as partial hydrogenation increases shelf-life and turns liquid oils solid - eg turning vegetable oil into margarine - making them more usable in commercial baking, frying, snack-food and fast-food manufacture.

Another means of "turning a good oil bad" - is prolonged over-heating, such as happens in a chip-shop fryer where the oil is only changed once a month; or when cooking oils or fatty meats at too high a temperature, eg, on a barbecue, which has been shown to produce carcinogens - cancer-causing substances.

So to avoid the 'Bad Guys', eat your oil as fresh as you can - cold-pressed and unsaturated and full of natural vitamins and goodness.


1. Smoke-Point & Flash-Point:
Smoke point is the temperature that an oil can be heated up to before it begins smoking and hence changing its molecular structure, producing both bad flavour and unhealthy chemical products.

Beyond Smoke-Point is Flash-point at which an oil actually bursts in to flame or combusts.

Wikkipedia gives a table of oil smoke-points listing some of the highest smoke-point edible oils as:

271°C - Avocado Oil
266°C - Safflower Oil
254°C - Rice bran Oil
252°C - Green Tea Seed Oil
216°C - Grape seed Oil
216°C - Olive Oil

Other common commercially-used cooking oils including: corn, peanut, soybean, walnut and hemp seed come in considerably lower at 160°C, with some oils such as: safflower, sunflower and flax seed as low as 107°C.

2. Cold-Pressing Versus Heat Extraction:
Obviously since heating negatively alters the structure of edible oils, the less heat used in extraction the better. Cold-pressing produces a better and more pure flavoured oil and retains the natural plant nutrients that are vital for our health.

Presumably it goes without saying that chemical extraction is not something we humans should expose our oils or our bodies to?!

3. Virgin & Extra Virgin
Virgin oils are made using mechanical means only - no chemicals, solvents or heat - and care is taken to leave the oil as unaltered from the pure state as it is squeezed from the fruit, seed or nut that it comes from.

Extra Virgin refers to an oil which is produced with the same care as Virgin oil but which also has a naturally low acidity of less than 0.8%. It is considered the most pure of oils.


I love this oil! I use it for almost all my cooking purposes, as it fries so cleanly. Rice Bran Oil has a mild, subtle flavour and good thermal stability, with a high smoke-point of around 254°C. It doesn’t convert to harmful trans-fats when heated as some other oils do. These features, combined with a low adhesion to food make it one of the cleanest-frying oils.

Rice-Bran oil also has high levels of natural antioxidants such as gamma-oryzanol, tocotrienols & tocopherols. The latter two are naturally occurring forms of Vitamin E. These natural antioxidants helps in controlling free radical formation in the human body and helps prevent various coronary diseases. Research studies have indicated that Rice Bran Oil has a significant hypocholesterolemic (cholesterol-lowering) effects, because it has the dual actions of both increasing HDL (good) cholesterol while lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol in the body.

Rice Bran Oil also contains squalene which, along with its Vitamin E content, makes it a great oil to use for massage, as it protects and rejuvenates the skin.


A by-product of the Wine industry, Grape Seed oil is pressed from the seeds of grapes. It has a high smoke-point of around 216°C, with no smoking, splatter or burnt taste, and doesn’t convert when heated to harmful trans-fats as some other oils do. The high flash point makes Grape Seed oil an excellent choice for fondues.

Grape Seed oil also has no fatty after-taste, allowing the pure flavor of fresh foods to come through. Grape seed oil contains Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Beta-Carotene


This delicate gourmet oil is pressed from tea seeds harvested from the green tea plant (Camilla Sinensis). The seeds are cold-pressed to produce a lovely pale amber-green oil that has a sweet flavour and pleasant herbal aroma. Green Tea oil is high in Vitamin E and other antioxidants. It contains no trans-fats and is even lower in saturated fat than olive oil.

Green Tea oil has a high smoke point and can withstand high temperatures during cooking without burning. It is frequently used in preparing Asian foods and can be added to cooked vegetables, pasta, and stir-fry recipes. It can be used as a base for dips, dressings, marinades, and sauces. It is an excellent element in salad dressings, where it combines well with other flavours, such as: lemon, lime and leafy green herbs such as coriander, parsley and mint.

Enjoy, Bon Appetit.



Avanti Avanti said...

This is such an awesome article, I think every single cook needs to read it! Thanks for sharing. I have never seen anyone make this information so clear. Thank You!

homecookedrecipe said...

Great article! I'm looking for Tea Seed Oil in Sydney. May I ask where can I buy Tea Seed Oil in Sydney? Thank you!

Kyle @ Photo-Ventura said...

Hi Homecooked, Green-Tea oil is available in.... Coles! All the oils in this post were bought while cruising the supermarket aisles to see 'what's new'... My local is Coles Broadway store in Glebe.

homecookedrecipe said...

Cool, thanks! I'll definitely go Coles and check out. I seldom buy oil in Coles supermarket but local markets, maybe that's why I didn't notice. ;-)

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