Rice Bran Oil
Produced in Thailand, the rice bran oil imported by California Rice Oil Company is available in specialty markets and natural foods stores. Oils with a high smoke point (such as canola and peanut) are recommended for high-heat cooking techniques such as stir-frying and pan-frying. The higher the smoke point, the less likely the oil is to burn.
To compare rice bran oil to canola oil, we placed 2 tablespoons of canola in a cold skillet and set it over high heat. After 3 minutes and 30 seconds, the oil began to smoke, and the pan registered 456 degrees on an infrared thermometer. (Peanut oil also has a smoke point of about 450 degrees.) When we repeated the test with rice bran oil, it took almost 4 minutes for the oil to smoke, and the pan registered 497 degrees.
Rice bran oil won the smoke point test; how about a taste test? We compared canola and rice bran oil in three applications: a basic vinaigrette, a beef stir-fry, and a pan-fried breaded chicken cutlet. In all three tests, the rice bran oil passed with flying colors. When the oils were heated, the differences were even more striking. The beef and chicken cooked in canola oil tasted “heavier” and “more oily” compared with those cooked in rice bran oil. The bottom line: At 12 cents per ounce for rice bran oil (versus 6 cents per ounce for canola oil), we think it’s worth the expense, especially when sautéing or pan-frying.
Our favorite premium extra-virgin olive oil from a previous tasting, Columela is composed of a blend of intense Picual, mild Hojiblanca, Ocal, and Arbequina olives. This oil took top honors for its fruity flavor and excellent balance. Tasters praised its “big olive aroma, big olive taste” with a “buttery” flavor that is “sweet” and “full,” with a “peppery finish.” One taster said: “It’s very green and fresh—like a squeezed olive.” Another simply wrote: “Fantastic.”
|Spain||$19 for 17 oz|
Tasters noted this oil’s flavor was “much deeper than the other samples,” describing it as “fruity, with a slight peppery finish,” “buttery undertones,” and a “clean, green taste” that was “aromatic, with a good balance.” “It has the flavor that some good EVOOs have,” said one admiring taster.
|Italy||$19.99 for 500 ml ($39.98 per liter)|
Virtually tied for second place, this oil was deemed “round and buttery,” with a “light body” and flavor that was “briny and fruity,” “very fine and smooth,” and “almost herbal,” with “great balance.” “Good olive flavor. I could smell it and taste it,” approved one taster. In a word, “pleasant.”
|Italy||$17.99 for 750 ml ($23.98 per liter)|
|Recommended with Reservations|
A clear step down from the top oils, tasters noted “overall mild” flavor and “very little aroma,” with only a “hint of green olive” and a “hint of spiciness at the end.” In pasta, it was initially “not complex,” but gradually “bloomed in your mouth.” Overall, it was “worthy of a second bite.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$12.49 for 750 ml ($16.65 per liter)|
While some tasters found this oil “sweet” and “buttery” with “medium body” and “slight spice at the end,” others complained that it had “zero olive flavor” and was “so floral it’s almost like eating perfume”; still others noted a “bitter” aftertaste. In pasta, it was “extremely mild” to the point of being “boring.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$10.99 for 750 ml ($14.65 per liter)|
Comments: The best comments tasters could muster were “mild” and “neutral.” Some liked it on pasta (though one called it “Snoozeville”), but complaints were myriad: “metallic,” “soapy,” “briny,” “hints of dirt.” Carped one taster, “I can’t imagine what is in here, but they have a nerve calling it EVOO.”
|Spain||$13.99 for 1 liter|
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