There Will Be Oil Transcript

Texas Highway

    [AB is dressed as a cowboy and driving] Oil. If there's a more potent symbol of wealth, I don't know what it is. I mean, sure, gold and diamonds are pretty, but they can't row your boat down the road at 100 plus. Nope. Oil means power, because oil means energy, and energy means work. Oil is also valuable as a lubricant, a heat transfer medium, and of course, it tastes good. Hah hah. Oh, do you think I meant that dinosaur stuff out there? Heck, no, that's 20th century stuff.
    [the truck now stopped, AB is at the back of the truck which contains an assortment of cooking oils] These days, the power is in plant oils. Today's global grocery offers oils from fruits like olives and avocados, seeds like sunflower, sesame, mustard, or grape, nuts as in walnut, palm kernel oil, hazelnut, legumes like soybeans and peanuts. If all these choices leave you in a daze, you are not alone. You see, most of us don't have a notion of how to sort out our edible oil options, in part, because we don't know much about oils to begin with. That, however, will hopefully be corrected in 30 short minutes of ...

["Good Eats" theme plays]

Side of a Texas Highway

    [AB is pouring oil into his car] Right before Rudolph Diesel cranked up his eponymous engine at the 1900 Paris World Exposition, he uttered two words to the crowd: peanut oil. Indeed, the engine in this fine vehicle [Jeep?] would run on pure vegetable oil, modification-free, if it weren't so viscous and gel-like when cold. As it is, a 50-50 filtered veg oil/diesel mix does just fine. What does this have to do with food? Ahh.

County Fair

GUESTS: Balloon Sculpture Man
              Young Man and Woman

BALLOON SCULPTURE MAN: [hands the Young Man and Woman a balloon sculpture]
YOUNG MAN: [pays and exits with YW]

    Now whether you're talking olive oil or light crude, you're really talking about hydrocarbons which are nothing but chemical energy stored as carbon and hydrogen atoms arranged thusly. [indicates to BSM]

BSM: [creates a balloon model of a simple hydrocarbon, hands it to AB]
AB: Thank you.

    This simple molecular menagerie is one of the most potent energy storage devices on earth. Now these are usually found in long chains.

AB: [hands the model back to the sculpturer and prompts to make a long chain model]
BSM: [creates many more hydrocarbon models and sculpts them together to forma fatty acid model, hands to AB]
AB: Wow, nicely done.

    Now, depending on the length of this structure, you could find it in diesel fuel. But if you tinker with it just a wee bit and bond it along with two others to a glycerol molecule ...

AB: [hands the fatty acid model back to the sculpturer and prompts to continue construction]
[looks at AB incredulously but he does it anyway, hands AB a monster triglyceride model]
AB: Nice.

    Now we have a triglyceride—that is, three hydrocarbon chains—which are now called fatty acids and a glycerol. Now all culinary oils look like this. But they're not all exactly alike because these chains can come in three different configurations. If every carbon bonding point has a hydrogen in it, it is a saturated fatty acid. If one position happens to be open [pops one ballon], it's a monounsaturated fatty acid. And if more than one position is open [pops several balloons], it's polyunsaturated.


Saturated Fatty Acid
Monounsaturated Fatty Acid
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid

    Now, unsaturating also puts kind of a kink in a molecule which is important, because that's what makes these liquid at room temperature. Now some oils are higher in polyunsaturates, some higher in monos. But regardless of composition, all culinary oils carry around nine calories per gram, which is twice what you would find in a gram of either protein or carbohydrate.

AB: Now, thank you, my good man. That's for your efforts. [hands the sculpture maker a quarter] Thank you. Bye-bye.
BSM: [trys to indicate he made a balloon sculpture of AB but AB leaves too quickly]

The Kitchen

    One of the most powerful culinary operations an oil can play a role in is the sauté. Although the term often refers to a particular step in the preparation of a dish, it can also signify any dish prepared by sautéing. Heck, it's even got a pan named after it. Now the method is hot, and it is fast, which might lead you to immediately reach for an oil with a high smoke point, hmm. Now a smoke point ...

AB: [whistles to the chalkboard which roles in] Come on. Good boy.

... is a temperature at which a given oil begins to rapidly deteriorate and create smoke. It is not a good thing to have happen, because it creates a lot of flavors all of them bad. Now many charts and tables attempt to quantify smoke points*, and I'm here to tell you they're all complete hooey. The truth is, there are just too many factors going into a smoke point to make such concrete claims. I will tell you this. High heat will destroy the fruity goodness of an extra virgin olive oil or the nutty goodness of a walnut oil. But you can sauté with just about any oil, as long as you work fast.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil 350° \
Canola (Rapeseed) Oil  400° |
Sesame Oil             400° |
Grapeseed Oil          435° |
Hazelnut Oil           430° \
Peanut Oil             450°  >F
Sunflower Oil          390° /
Vegetable Oil          450° |
Safflower Oil          450° |
Avocado Oil            520° |
Palm Oil               450° |
Walnut Oil             325° /

    My favorite sauté oils contain a relatively high ratio of monounsaturated-to-saturated fats. Canola, peanut, avocado, all fit the bill. But so do sesame oils. And toasted sesame oil is nice, because it can bring a distinct Asian flavor and aroma to the party.
    Now when the sauté train pulls out of the station, there's no stopping. So proper prep is key. The goal, as far as the food, have everything sliced and diced in the size and shape that will guarantee that when it all comes out of the pan, it'll be perfectly done.

    Here's how it is going to go. We have one teaspoon of minced garlic, one tablespoon of minced ginger, eight ounces of carrots cut on the bias in quarter-inch pieces, four ounces each of sugar snap peas and shredded savoy cabbage, three quarters of an ounce by weight of green onion, chopped, a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, and a couple of teaspoons of cilantro, or mint, chopped, to finish. And of course, our good friends salt and pepper will come into play.

1 tsp. Minced Garlic
1 Tbs. Minced Ginger
8 Ounces Carrots, Cut on Bias
4 Ounces Each:
    Sugar Snap Peas &
    Savoy Cabbage, Shredded
¾ Ounce Green Onion, Chopped
1 Tbs. Rice Wine Vinegar
2 tsp. Chopped Cilantro

    Now when I sauté, I like a classic 10-inch sauté pan with straight sides, because it's got more floor space than a curved skillet and that means I've got more room to work. Now this is going down over medium heat. I'm going to add four teaspoons of our toasted sesame oil. I'm sure you've heard the old adage, "hot pan, cold oil", hmm? Well, it evolved to keep us from pouring oil into a pan and walking away which is never a good idea when flammables are involved. Of course, if we had some kind of alarm to tell us when the heat was close, we wouldn't have to worry now, would we? Well, it just so happens the average popcorn kernel detonates at 350 degrees.

AB: Thing, keep an ear on that, would you?

4 tsp. Toasted Sesame Oil

    I've got a question for you. What if we didn't use any oil in the pan? Answer: the food would not brown very well and it would stick something fierce. Oil can fix both of these situations. How? Ahh.

Olive and sesame oils are two of the most ancient oils,
dating back more than 4,000 years.



So how do oils promote browning and prevent sticking?

    The same way motor oil keeps your engine parts chugging along at several thousand RPMs without blowing the proverbial gasket. You see, your pan, like this engine part, looks smooth.

BA: [is working under AB's truck and hands him a piston]
AB: Thanks, bro. Are you sure it's okay to take this out?
BA: [waves his hand indicating that it is OK]
AB: All right.

    But on a microscopic level, your pan and this piston are pocked with pits, nooks, crannies and fissures. These cause friction in moving parts in an engine and plenty of sticking in a hot pan. Now oils, be they motor or cooking, tend to cling to metal because of a slight negativity. And since their long molecules slip and slide on one another, friction is reduced in the engine and sticking is reduced in the pan.

Oils Cling to Metal
Long Molecules are Slippery

AB: [hands the part back to BA] Now here. There you go. I hope you can get that back in.

    Oils are also efficient heat absorbers, which means they can move heat away from hot engine parts or towards cold foods. That's why foods brown so nicely and cook so quickly when oil is invited to the party. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to wash these engine-y hands.

Oils Conduct Heat

BA: [as AB exits he tosses the piston away]

The Kitchen

GUEST: The Dungeon Master

AB: [returns to the kitchen where Thing still has his "ear" to the sauté] Thank you, Thing.

    Now I have found that the popcorn is an amazingly reliable thermostat, but in no way do I advocate your leaving the kitchen once the fat hits the pan, okay? I did that because this is television. I mean, you might have an old kernel that doesn't pop right. It's just, it's a bad idea to leave with accelerants heating. So, stay put.

    Okay, time to sauté. First food in: always the aromatics because we want them to influence the entire dish. So the garlic and the ginger. We also want to go ahead and get the longest cooking item in the pan and that would be the carrots. And I always season up front: half a teaspoon of kosher salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. We're going to let this cook for four minutes.

½ tsp. Kosher Salt
Pinch of Freshly Ground
    Black Pepper

    Four minutes is up. The next food in should be the one that needs the most time of what's left. And that would be the sugar snap peas. One minute.
    Next up, the greenery: the savoy, and the green onions. And add another minute to the clock.
    Okay, we're close to the end. Add the rice wine vinegar, toss in the herbs, kill the heat, stir to combine and serve immediately.
    [at the table] Ahh. And so our toasted sesame oil has served as lubrication, heat transfer medium, and flavorant. Serve as a side or with sticky rice as a vegetarian delight.

In ancient China, sesame oil was used as a heat and light source in lamps.

    Besides triglycerides, food oils contain a host of other organic compounds which can contribute to flavor, aroma, as well as alter the cooking characteristics. Now although the plant matter concern certainly makes a difference, so does the method of extraction. Since the machines used to do this job are large, complex and far away, we've put together a few models to prove a few points.

Dungeon Master: You said "we", master.
AB: Yes, but it was an accident.
DM: And you've covered up the windows-es to keep the nasty sun from burning our eyes.
AB: Actually, I did that so that the neighbors couldn't see you.
DM: Look, I've made a squeezy for you.
AB: And an excellent squeezy it is.

    This, of course, a simple model of a basic oil press. This device uses old-fashioned pressure to extract oils from fatty foods, such as avocados, olives and sesame seeds.

DM: [puts all three into the press and begins to squeeze demonstrating the pressing]

    Oils extracted thusly are referred to as cold-press oils, which are capable of delivering considerable flavor and aroma. A good example would be extra virgin ...

DM: [giggles]

... olive oil.

AB: What?
DM: Oh, nothing, master. [giggles]

    If heat is applied, more oil can be removed, but the resulting product can not be referred to as cold press.
    Now the next method of extraction is the expeller. This device uses a worm screw capable of applying 20,000 kilopascals of pressure to squeeze oils from less fatty seeds and grains. Now the extreme pressure produces temperatures in excess of 200 degrees which destroys most flavor compounds.

DM: But it sure is fun. [laughs evilly]

    Unless the words "crude" or "unrefined" appear on the container, you can assume an expeller oil has been refined with corrosive alkalines or steam.

DM: Oh, speaking of corrosive... [laughs evilly]

    Some seeds, like rapeseeds, and legumes, such as soybeans, contain so little oil that they have to be ground, scalded, and doused with caustic solvents like hexane to get anything at all useful out of them. The resulting oil is then filtered, bleached, and deodorized, resulting in a crystal clear elixir free of any and all impurities.

DM: Just like me.

    What's important to extract from this is that cold-pressed oils offer a lot of flavor, color and aroma, but they can't take much heat. Refined filtered oils are squeaky clean with almost no flavor or aroma, but they can take the heat. And as you might expect, they both deserve places in the kitchen.

AB: By the way, what do you do with all this gear in the dungeon?
DM: Oh, I'm working on my own line of oils.
AB: Really? Olive oil?
DM: Oh, no. Frog. [hands AB a bright green test tube, and laughs evilly]


The original skull and cross bones symbol was used by
the Knights Templar in the Middle Ages.

The Kitchen

    Oils, especially those high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, tend to break down and go rancid if they're exposed to oxygen. Light and heat speed this process. So store your oils, especially cold-pressed oils, in a cool, dark place: a pantry, a root cellar if you have one, refrigerator, or a wine cooler would be fine, too. Just remember, refrigerated oils, if they get cold enough, they'll cloud up. But it's okay. They'll clear when they warm up again. Safflower is the one exception. It tends to stay clear regardless of temperature, which is why it's so popular in salad dressings.

Refined and filtered oils are the best for frying because they
withstand heat for prolonged periods of time.

    Although Americans don't often fry with it, I've become a big fan of plain old refined olive oil. Which despite being 14% saturated fat, leads the pack in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats at 76%. Now although its pedigree is Italian, my favorite application is decidedly America, potato chips. That means deep-frying. And for me, that means a big old Dutch oven, nice and dense. Now we will also require the services of a good frying thermometer, which we will attach thusly.

    Now oil, it's going to take 2 quarts, but don't worry. Most of it's going to be left in the pot. You can always reuse it.

2 Quarts Olive Oil

    As for the rest of the hardware, a mandolin or v-slicer, or other device capable of creating dime-thick slices, a large strainer like this spider, and a bowl lined with paper towels for tossing. Now as far as the potatoes themselves, we always want to go with high-starch russet baking potatoes. Three medium should do the trick. We'll need salt and pepper, too, but we'll get to that.
    Now the first step is to bring this oil up to 300 degrees. Now I'm going to do that over medium heat, so that when I get to about 280, I'll be able to back down that heat without zooming past the target temperature. That would be a bad thing.

    [prepares the potatoes by cutting them in half and then slicing it on the v-slicer, he then drops them in the oil 1 at a time]

1 Pound Russet Potatoes

    Like so many simple applications, potato chips are all about details. For instance, the pieces need to hit the oil one at a time. That's the only way to make sure that they don't stick. If they're stuck together when they hit the oil, odds are you'll never be able to pry them apart. This also means that you need to keep them moving gently throughout, well, pretty much the entire cooking cycle. But don't worry. It's only going to take a few minutes.
    As water boils out of the potatoes, it's going to move into the oil before going into the air, and that is going to cool the oil quite a bit. You could lose 20 degrees in just the first couple of minutes. So you've got to keep one hand on the spider, and the other hand on the throttle to keep that oil as close to 300 as possible.
    If you're using brand new oil, you may notice that the first couple of spider-fuls of chips are going to be just a little bit on the pale side, okay? That is because the oil and the water coming out of the chips don't get along with each other, okay? But as the oil starts to break down little by little from heat and contact with the food, small amounts of natural soaps are produced. And these soaps will act essentially as emulsifiers to help the potato and the oil get together and do the browning which is so critical for the flavor that we're out for. This is referred to as "breaking in the oil" and explains why professional fry men, when they change their fry machines, always put some of the old fat in with the new fat. It leads to better browning.
    [removes the chips with the spider, places them in the bowl with the paper towels, sprinkles them with salt and pepper and tosses to coat]
    Mmm. Although I've heard of some home chippers sprinkling on things like chili powder, I find that the only extra adornment ever required here is a little spritzing of malt vinegar. Very nice.
    Now back on the counter, please notice that I'm filtering the cooled fry oil through a couple of coffee filters back into the original bottle, which I will then top off with some new oil. Then I'm going to freeze it. That way, I'll be able to get maybe five, six, seven fry sessions out of it. Just make sure that you throw it out before it becomes dark, stinky or smoky.
    Now, the last decade saw a huge influx of nut oils come onto the market. And you may have never been able to figure out exactly what to do with one of these luscious lovelies.

Potato chips were invented by Chef George Crum at
the Moon's Lake Lodge, Saratoga N.Y. in 1853.

The Kitchen

    Our ice cream begins with a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add one cup of heavy cream, three cups of whole milk, and bring to a simmer.

1 Cup Heavy Cream
3 Cups Whole Milk

    Meanwhile, whisk six large egg yolks until they lighten and thicken a bit. Then gradually add nine ounces, by weight, of sugar. When that is in, bring along half a cup of any cold-pressed oil that you like. I'm using hazelnut, but you could go with almond, or believe it or not, extra virgin if you like. Olive oil, that is.

6 Large Egg Yolks
9 Ounces Granulated Sugar
½ Cup Hazelnut Oil

    Now once that's thoroughly combined, which could take 30 seconds of whisking, go ahead and grab a ladle and add just a little bit of the hot liquid, whisking constantly. This is called tempering and it's meant to slowly heat the eggs to ensure that they won't curdle. Truth is with all this sugar, I would be very surprised if they would curdle if you dropped hot lava in here. But we're going to do it just to be careful. Now once you've got a third or so in, you can go ahead and dump in the rest in just a constant stream. There.

yeah, he spilled on
the counter, that
happens in real life

yeah, he did it again

    Now when everything is in, we're going to go right back in the opposite direction. Into the saucepan over medium heat. I'm going to give that a little stir with the whisk just to make sure that all the egg is worked in. Now temperature is more important at this step. We're looking for 170 to 175 degrees. It'll be a little thicker at that stage. But it's tough to recognize, so you're definitely going to want to use your fry thermometer here. Once it is done, we're going to strain that to make sure we don't have any chalazae or any other bits of egg hanging out. And that's going to go straight into an ice bath to chill.
    [at the refrigerator] When the mixture is thoroughly chilled, cover it with plastic wrap and stash in your chill chest for four to six hours. This is called mellowing and it will improve both the flavor and the texture. Trust me.
    [he pours the cooled mixture into his ice cream maker and stops it when it starts to slow down] When your machine starts to struggle, you're probably done. Yeah, this is soft-serve consistency. You can serve as is or harden for a few hours in the freezer. But if you do that, cover tightly. Remember, fats and oils are notorious for picking up bad flavors.

If hazelnut oil is not your thing, try pistachio, walnut, almond or pecan.

Texas Highway

    [AB is driving again] Well, I certainly hope we've inspired you to become your own personal oil baron. The way I see it, oils contain nine calories per gram, more than twice a like-size serving of carbohydrates or proteins. So you better make the most of them. My strategy? Have three or four oils for cooking, and then another half dozen or so for cold or room temperature applications.
As for your diesel? Well, that may be good science, but I doubt it will ever rank as "Good Eats". See you next time.

*I'm one of those who have attempted to do so. Here's my table.

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger


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Last Edited on 08/27/2010