Misinformation from the Cook Who Coined 'EVOO'

You might think the cook and author Rachael Ray, who is credited with coining 'EVOO' as shorthand for extra virgin olive oil, would do the necessary homework to get it right.

Rachael Ray
By Curtis Cord
Oct. 26, 2016 15:52 UTC
Rachael Ray

Doctor Oz told mil­lions of view­ers that the best way to tell if their olive oil was good or not was to put it in the refrig­er­a­tor, a myth swiftly debunked by the University of California at Davis Olive Center.

It’s not uncom­mon or sur­pris­ing to hear celebrity doc­tors, chefs and other tele­vi­sion per­son­al­i­ties prop­a­gat­ing myths and false­hoods when it comes to olive oil.

But you might expect the cook and author Rachael Ray, who is cred­ited with coin­ing E‑V-O‑O as a short­hand for extra vir­gin olive oil (added to the Oxford American College Dictionary in 2007), to do the nec­es­sary home­work to get it right.

If you can see through it, it’s fine for cook­ing,” Ray stated in a recent seg­ment on her show, apply­ing an even cruder method of olive oil qual­ity assess­ment than Oz’s fridge test. In fact, the color of extra vir­gin olive oil can range from pale yel­low to emer­ald green and is not an indi­ca­tion of its qual­ity or grade. For that rea­son, experts use cobalt glasses to con­ceal the color of oil when con­duct­ing their sen­sory analy­ses.

Ray con­tin­ued in her seg­ment with ill-informed pro­nounce­ments to even fur­ther com­pound con­sumers’ con­fu­sion about olive oil qual­ity: The deep green, super-fruity, really expen­sive stuff — that’s tech­ni­cally extra vir­gin olive oil because it has­n’t been strained and puri­fied in any way.”

Of course, it’s not tech­ni­cally extra vir­gin olive oil unless it meets cer­tain tech­ni­cal chem­i­cal and sen­sory bench­marks, what­ever its color or price. And most extra vir­gin olive oil, includ­ing Ray’s own brand, is strained through a bat­tery of fil­ters to remove par­ti­cles of pits and pulp. The fil­ter­ing process extends the shelf life and reduces the sed­i­ment on the bot­tom of the bot­tle that turns off some shop­pers.

Ray con­tin­ued, But if you can see through it, you can cook with it up to medium-high heat,” with­out stat­ing what high” means and while at the same time throw­ing more sup­port behind a com­mon myth that you can’t fry in olive oil. Extra vir­gin olive oil has a smoke point in line with other veg­etable oils and is well within the range of all but the most intense high-heat appli­ca­tions.

Viewers of the show can find more fal­lac­ies on Ray’s web­site, where the color of olive oil is wrongly sin­gled out not only as an indi­ca­tion of its suit­abil­ity for cook­ing but as a cri­te­rion for the extra vir­gin grade itself:

To be graded as Extra Virgin, the oil must exhibit supe­rior taste, aroma and color,” the site pro­claims. Nowhere in the inter­na­tional stan­dard is there a mea­sure (or even a men­tion) of color.

And to meet the most exact­ing label­ing stan­dards, it must also have less than 1 per­cent free oleic acid,” Ray’s web­site states incor­rectly, cit­ing an acid­ity bench­mark for the refined olive oil grade, not extra vir­gin.

Thus,” Ray’s web­site con­cludes, the Extra’ in Extra Virgin Olive Oil means pre­mium,’ or sim­ply, the best.’ ”

If only it were that sim­ple.

Update: Ray’s video and the page on the Rachael Ray web­site ref­er­enced in this arti­clehave since been tak­ing down.

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