Published September 1, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated.
This specialty oil is recommended to high-heat cooking techniques. Is it worth the extra cost?
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.