According to any literature in existence that includes the word ‘health’ anywhere in it, and you will discover that smoking oil will kill you dead.
Heat up a pan, put some cooking oil in there, and the second you see a wisp of smoke, that oil becomes more dangerous than iocane. If you breather in a whiff, your lungs will spontaneously disintegrate. If a drop enters your body, free radicals will bombard every single one of your cells and you’ll be sporting cantaloupe tumors within a week.
But read just about any recipe that includes putting oil into a pan, and it will tell you to heat the oil until it just starts to smoke.
WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?
SMOKING OIL: THE HAZARDS AND BENEFITS
When an oil hits a high enough temperature to begin smoking, it starts to break down into glycerol and free-fatty acids, whatever those are. They don’t sound good. The glycerol then breaks down further into aldehydes, which are toxic, and free radicals, which go zinging around your body potentially knocking out bits of DNA, and maybe causing cancer. Geez.
On the other hand, smoking oil used judiciously can make food taste amazing.
To get the most delicious sear on a steak or cutlet, you want a hot, hot skillet, and that means smoking oil. To make a proper Asian stir fry, the wok is so ridiculously hot that the oil is practically vaporizing.
So if a guy is trying to eat healthy, sustainable food, but also make things as delicious as possible, what’s he supposed to do?
DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT
This whole controversy between health and taste is the result of a really screwed up food culture, built on industrial agriculture instead of sustainable practices. It’s not an all-or-nothing equation.
I sear with smoking oil sometimes. I eat raw vegetables a lot. I deep fry sometimes. I eat whole grains as often as I can. I try to only eat until I’m not hungry anymore.
We’re working with the wrong controversies. Smoking oil, extra virgin olive oil—vegan, paleo—all of these competitive viewpoints are contributing to unhealthy attitudes about food.
I try to eat as sustainably as I can. And, very occasionally, I eat McDonalds. Because we should be serious about our food, but we shouldn’t WORRY so damn much.