These days, a gourmet kitchen wouldn’t be complete without a pricey bottle of olive oil ready to coat the bottom of sauté pans and stock pots with flavor and healthy fats. On the advice of cookbooks and celebrity chefs like Lidia Bastianich (does she cook anything that doesn’t get a generous pour of the stuff?), we muster up significant chunks of cash to get the fruity flavor and spicy aroma that EVOO adds to our cooking. (That’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for those of you who aren’t up on the trend.) But according to The New York Times‘ Harold McGee, you should consider an oil change: Your gourmet selection is hardly better than cheaper oils like canola. At least in the taste department.
McGee taste-tested several oil types after they’d been exposed to high cooking temperatures, and found that nearly all the excellent taste properties of olive oil were lost after heat exposure. In fact, all of the oils he tested (10 seed oils and 5 varieties of olive oil) lost their taste after being cooked, with the exception of unrefined sesame oil. He concludes that, while it’s up to every cook to choose their own oil, using cheaper oils like canola to cook with and adding a drizzle of olive oil for flavor at the end is a better use of budget than pouring the pricey stuff into a hot pan.
Thanks, Harold, but we’ll stick to our olive oil when we can afford it: Though debatable, there are several environmental and health concerns over canola oil, and and the health benefits of olive oil’s heart-healthy omega-3s makes us reticent to use it as a garnish. Do you think olive oil is worth the splurge? Tell us what you use in your fry pan in the comments section, below.