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A New Cooking Oil Can Be Reused 80 Times

Could it make for better French fries and disrupt a worldwide black market at the same time?

(Tim Hill/Food and Drink Photos/Food and Drink Photos/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

It's common knowledge that the older the oil in an establishment's fryer, the grosser the taste that's infused into its fried foods. But soon, that local fried chicken joint may be applauded for using the same batch of oil over and over again — thanks to a new type of cooking oil that can be used up to 80 times.

Earlier this month, researchers at the University of Putra Malaysia announced that they had developed a new kind of cooking oil that's not only super reusable, but also contains antioxidants, has antibacterial properties and contributes less to heart disease and cancer than typical products, Hilary Pollack writes for Vice Munchies.

Oh yeah, and it also makes everything crispier and tastier, too, according to a press release.

"Extracts from Rutaceaea herb serve as a natural antioxidant that prevents cooking oil from damage,” lead researcher Suhaila Mohamed said in a statement. "Wastage can be avoided through the use of cooking oil for 80 times, without affecting one's health.”

Besides putting your grandma’s fried chicken to shame, the new kind of cooking oil generates dramatically less waste than conventional oil, Pollack writes. But there is a tradeoff: the oil is based on palm oil, which is one of the most environmentally destructive and ubiquitous food products on supermarket shelves, Michael Casey and Ntungwe Elias write for Scientific American.

The product’s developers maintain that their new oil can impart its abilities into normal cooking oils by adding just a spoonful of the reusable oil for every half-cup of the traditional kind, extending regular oil's shelf life with a mere splash. 

The new oil could also disrupt a lucrative black market in stolen cooking oil. It's become an increasingly hot commodity over the last ten years as biofuels have become more popular around the world. Because cooking oil can be easily refined into biofuel and diesel, thieves can make a quick buck by scooping up leftovers from the grease trap at the end of the day. While restaurant owners used to have to pay to have their spent cooking oil disposed of, now they have to guard their grease traps closely. Used oil can fetch high prices at biofuel refineries – up to $4 per gallon on the black market.

In a world where some restaurants have been accused of being so desperate as to use oil scraped from gutters for cooking, a little more frying time could go a long way.

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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