Cooking with infused oil seems easy, yet potentially intimidating. Here are some tips and tricks for making the most of them, and using them properly in every way.
Whether in an olive oil and vinegar specialty shop, gourmet housewares store, or even in the supermarket, picking up an olive oil infused with an interesting or unique flavor can be exciting. You imagine the nuances your bland grilled chicken will pick up, or envision the best vinaigrette of your life.
But while these do make easy additions to salad dressings and marinades, you may struggle to get the full flavor from them when using them in high-heat cooking applications. However, says Crystal Ross, senior sales manager at Bozeman, Montana-based Olivelle Olive Oil, which is distributed to independent housewares stores across the U.S., you can—and should—be cooking with infused olive oils.
“There is a misconception that olive oil should only be used for cold or low heat applications. However, your infused olive oils can be used in place of any cooking fat in your kitchen. The possibilities are endless. As long as your olive oil isn’t burning, you’re good to go. When using infused olive oil, you want not to burn the oil, letting it turn brown or black, allowing you to use it for sautéing vegetables to marinating meats, poultry, or fish,” she says. She also recommends “drizzling over pasta or adding to soups to intensify the flavor.”
Go for High Quality & Cook Carefully
Ross did explain that there are two reasons you may not be getting the flavor to shine through to your finished product. The first, she explains, is the product itself, as a higher-quality product will have more flavor. The second is even more critical to flavor, she says, and that is to keep your oil from burning.
“If your oil is burning too hot—this usually only happens when your oil is over the direct heat source in a pan for a long time—then this could diminish the flavor,” she says.
Vincent Ricchiuti, director of operations, Enzo Olive Oil, echoed this sentiment, explaining that, “Using the oil at low temperatures is the best way to ensure the flavors shine through, either at the finishing stage or the last part of the cooking process. We tell our customers to think of our Crush olive oils as condiments.”
Beware of Floaters
Ricchiuti says there may be something in your olive oil that may be helping to diminish the flavor, even if stored properly, staring you right in the face.
“Never buy flavored oils with floating ingredients. While these oils may look beautiful while sitting on your kitchen counter they provide a food safety risk as they may carry water and oxygen,” he says.
Practice Proper Storage
Storage, too, needs to be taken into account when it comes to maintaining flavor. Ross explains that olive oil, unlike wine, does not actually get better with age and should be used quickly as it is also perishable.
“The four factors that affect the degradation of olive oil air (oxygen), heat, light, and age. Air, heat, and light are the only factors you can control as a consumer once you have it in your home. Whether it is traditional oil or infused oil, proper storage is key to slowing the degradation of your olive oil. Keep olive oil away from direct heat, sunlight, and air. Store in a bottle with a tight-fitting cork or screw cap, preferably in a dark cupboard. Never store your oils in the fridge,” she says.
Ricchiuti adds that infused olive oils should be kept away from the stove and the oven as well, as the heat will also start to diminish the flavor.
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Go Condiment Crazy
Not only should you be cooking with infused olive oils, but the array of flavors on the market these days can really elevate a simple sauce, marinade, mayo, or dressing into something elegant and special. Using best practices when creating these condiments will lead to an end product that will invoke the flavor you want it to.
“Marinating with an infused oil is the same as marinating with any other fat. The proportions you should use when marinating with oil and vinegar is three parts oil to two parts vinegar. However, it’s a personal taste preference, so if you’re looking for more tang or sweetness, use more vinegar,” says Ross.
Ross explains that she often uses Olivelle products to make aioli, too. Her tip for making sure her condiments come out perfect is cutting the infused olive oil with a high-quality extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil.
“I do this so the final product isn’t too overpowering. To make a mayo, you often times will need one cup of oil, so if you used an entire cup of infused oil, your final mayo product might turn out too strong in flavor,” she says.
Related Video: How to Make Your Own Mayo
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