In today’s kitchen one can almost always find a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. With its subtle nutty flavor, home cooks these days love to use this oil when making salad dressing, lightly sauteing vegetables, and sometimes even in baking as a substitute for butter. However, how does this oil fare in recipes that call for moderate or high heat cooking?
Because of its high percentage of monounsaturated fats, olive oil will smoke quite easily at any temperature over 370 degrees Fahrenheit. This roughly translates to cooking above “medium” or “medium high” heat on the stove top. When an oil smokes, it is actually breaking down the glycol, or sugar, compounds which are the molecular backbones of free fatty acids, or triglycerides. This will also result in a burned taste and smell. Therefore, not only will allowing an oil to smoke have the consequence of changing the flavor of the oil, but it will also change the molecular makeup of the oil as well. This may result in changing the nutrition or health benefits too.
Traditional Indian recipes have found a way around the smoke point problem by cooking with ghee for all recipes that require high heat. Ghee has a smoke point of around 485 degrees Fahrenheit, or an equivalent of “very high” or “high” heat on a stove top, which makes it suitable for all of your cooking needs, even deep frying. This high smoke point insures that both the subtle flavor and the molecular makeup of ghee will remain stable throughout cooking, which will ultimately add to the nutrition and flavor of the final dish.
An added benefit of cooking with ghee is the additional nutrients and fat-soluble vitamins that you may not get if cooking with an oil that has a lower smoke point, such as olive oil. The high percentage of saturated fat that ghee has is not only what makes it suitable for high heat cooking, but is also what aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Since ghee will solidify at room temperature, it is also much more shelf-stable than olive oil and does not require any refrigeration. In fact we estimate that properly stored ghee will last approximately 9 months without any refrigeration from the date of purchase, while experts recommend that extra virgin olive oil will need to be refrigerated in order to prevent rancidity.
In the future, please remember to consider the smoke points of any oil that you will be cooking with. If ever in doubt, please know that ghee will maintain its flavor and nutritional content even while cooking at high heat and will also not go rancid if left without refrigeration for months after you have purchased it. For these reasons, ghee is our preferable oil to cook with!