If you've not yet opened up to the world of infused cooking oils, or you're paying hand over fist for oil concoctions at the supermarket, this is for you
Cooking oil is such an important and essential ingredient in our day to day cooking. Whether it be salads, fries, curries or grilling and baking, oil is used in varying proportions and therefore it begs the question, what if we upgrade it? In India, when you're starting the dish, oil or fat is heated in a cookware first, before adding herbs or whole and ground spices. This is because the heat of the oil makes the spices release their flavour into it, which then flavours the rest of the ingredients of the dish. Not only do infused oils add an extra dimension to your cooking, it fortifies the oil making it healthier, flavourful, aromatic and nutritious. They're versatile and add flavour to many day-to-day dishes. It is always recommended to choose oils that do not have a strong aroma or flavour of their own, and that provides a neutral base for our herbs and spices to work their magic on. Aromatic oils like olive and mustard oils can also be infused, but take care of the fact that the infusion shouldn’t overpower the original smell and flavour of the oil, rather accentuate it. Now, there are two ways to infuse cooking oils.
A cup of oil is mixed with 4 to 5 tablespoons of spices and herbs and brought upto a high temperature in the stovetop. The oil being heated would allow the spices to release their flavours into the oil and therefore get infused instantly. You can add crushed garlic and fresh herbs to the oil if you're looking to do so, because in this process, water or moisture will evaporate from the contents, and the high temperature would warrant the growth of any bacteria.
After the heated infusion process, one must let the oil come down to room temperature on its own. The longer you let the ingredients sit in the oil, the more flavourful the oil will be. Check for how successfully you've managed to infuse the spices and if you're dissatisfied, put it back on heat and add the necessary ingredients to enhance or balance out the flavours. Strain the oil into food-grade glass containers, not plastic containers, as the inner surface of the plastic container will interact with the oil, thereby ruining it.