A Quick Oil Change
For centuries oil has been an integral part of cooking because of its inherent ability to change the nature of food. The saturated fats of yesteryear like butter and lard added to the popularity of fried foods, baked goods and charred meats but were unfortunately not the healthiest oils to consume. Back then, not much thought was given to when, where and how unrefined oils such as fresh-pressed vegetable oils were made and stored. This led to off-tasting, expired and even rancid oils populating the market.
Today, if you do not keep an eye on your oil products and information about provenance, production and shelf-time, you may be feeding bad oil to your customers. Our pizzerias operate with many different doughs, techniques and cooking temperatures. Finding the right oil can be a choice of quality over mediocrity, flavor over cost and what oils are perfect for your operation.
The Flavor of Oil
Some oils transform the flavor of foods enveloping the foods in the pressed oil flavor increasing the harmony of each dish, salad or baked item. The flavored oils by their very nature have lower smoke points because of the extra compounds in the oils. Here are some great tasting flavored oils for you and your pizzeria and their smoke points.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Smoke point 325F-375F. The king of oils has many different types like unfiltered, filtered and mixed. I use only accredited fresh California extra-virgin shipped in oxygen-free containers. Garlic-rosemary flavored oil is very easy to make for pizza or slow roasted garlic with this oil. (See recipe.) I also use extra virgin instead of butter to make laminated dough or to cover flavorful fougasse before and after the oven for a flavor explosion.
Walnut Oil: Smoke point, 320F. This surprisingly sweet and nutty, (duh.) flavor makes the most wonderful vinaigrette when combined with balsamic vinegar. It is perfect on aged cheeses and especially paired with asparagus, cold noodles, peaches, pears and radicchio.
Sesame Oil: Smoke point 350-410F. Roasted sesame oil is better with salads and finishing oils and light sesame oil is better for sautéing and baking. Great with Dijon, orange, garlic, ginger, chicken and vinegar.
Coconut Oil: Smoke point 400F. This oil is best in non-hydrogenated or virgin form and is great for frying. Its taste has notes of nuts, vanilla and is great with almonds. This oil starts turning to liquid at 72F which makes for flaky baked items and is great with garlic, ginger, scallions, lime, greens and chocolate.
These oils are suitable for high heat frying or for adding to flavored oils to bring the benefit of their high-heat smoke points to the flavor, (Example: Extra virgin/canola oils). You may also want an oil that has zero flavor to not muddle with a dish or sear vegetables or meats. Here are some neutral flavored oils you may want to try along with their smoke points:
Peanut Oil: Smoke point, 450F. This has a mild flavor and great for Asian dishes and searing and roasting, deep-frying and grilling. Using this in your restaurant may produce problems with customers with severe allergies. Great with soy, ginger, garlic, curries, chicken and pork.
Canola Oil: Smoke point, 400F. Canola can be used for medium to high temperatures which makes it great for baking but not good for deep frying. Many chefs like its neutral flavor favors salad dressings. Good with chilies, sauces and soups and used in combination with flavorful olive oils.
Rice Bran Oil: Smoke point, 490. This high-heat oil is great for searing. Its light viscosity makes for less oil being absorbed during cooking. Until recently, rice bran chaff was used for animal feed. Now, the oils uses are best for frying chicken, searing vegetables like potato, broccoli, shrimp and thick vegetable greens, like broccoli.
Extra Virgin and Garlic Satchel Bombe
This little ditty has become one of my customers favorite bread item. The slow roasted garlic in extra-virgin oil is steamed in a small bag of crispy dough. The ricotta gem inside adds to the supple garlic heaven and is countered with a cool and chunky garlic-tomato vinaigrette. I sometimes use chive strings or long leeks to tie. Please note: If your oven cooks with very strong top heat, you may want to bake these at 450 at 15 minutes.
John Gutekanst owns Avalanche Pizza in Athens, Ohio.