What Is Smoked Olive Oil And How Is It Different?

Have you ever heard of smoked olive oil? Smoked olive oil is a type of olive oil infused with smoke, giving it a distinct, smoky flavour. It’s the first cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil that is typically cold-smoked with hickory. This process enhances the oil's complexity and depth, making it unique compared to regular olive oil. The production of smoked olive oil typically starts with high-quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) due to its superior flavour and health benefits. 

The oil is then exposed to smoke generated from burning wood chips or other organic materials, either through cold smoking or hot smoking. Cold smoking keeps the temperature low, preserving the oil's nutritional properties, while hot smoking can impart a stronger smoky flavour but may degrade some beneficial compounds due to higher temperatures.

The choice of wood used for smoking is crucial as it influences the oil's final flavour profile. Commonly used woods include oak, hickory, mesquite, and applewood, each imparting different nuances to the oil. After smoking, the oil is allowed to rest and settle, ensuring the smoke flavours fully infuse into the oil. This process results in a well-rounded and balanced smoky taste.

What the flavour like?

Smoked olive oil boasts a rich, smoky aroma and flavour that can range from subtle to intense, depending on the smoking process and the type of wood used. This distinctive taste makes smoked olive oil a versatile ingredient in both savoury and sweet dishes. Its applications in the culinary world are vast. Smoked olive oil can transform simple salads with its depth and gourmet touch, and it is often used in marinades for meats, poultry, and seafood, enhancing the grilled or roasted food's flavour.

As a finishing oil, smoked olive oil can elevate soups, pasta, pizzas, and bread by adding a smoky complexity without overwhelming other flavours. It also serves as an excellent dipping oil, especially when combined with herbs, garlic, or balsamic vinegar. While not typically used for high-heat cooking, it can be employed in low to moderate-heat cooking methods like sautéing vegetables or making sauces.

What are some of its benefits?

Nutritionally, smoked olive oil retains many benefits of regular extra virgin olive oil, particularly if it is cold-smoked. It is rich in monounsaturated fats, which help reduce bad cholesterol levels and high in antioxidants like vitamin E and polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory properties. The oil also contains essential vitamins, including vitamins E and K, which are important for skin health and blood clotting. Additionally, the oleocanthal compound in olive oil mimics the effects of ibuprofen in reducing inflammation.

The primary difference between smoked and regular olive oil is the flavour. Regular olive oil has a fruity, grassy, or peppery taste, depending on the variety of olives used and the region of production. Smoked olive oil, however, has an added layer of smoky complexity. This unique flavour makes smoked olive oil particularly favoured for adding a gourmet touch to dishes, although it is not typically used for high-heat cooking to prevent altering its flavour and nutritional benefits.

Here’s how to use it

The production method also sets them apart. Regular olive oil is made by crushing olives and extracting the oil, followed by filtering, whereas smoked olive oil undergoes an additional smoking process to infuse the smoke flavour. If the smoking process involves high heat, there might be a slight reduction in the nutritional benefits due to the degradation of heat-sensitive compounds. However, cold smoking preserves the nutritional integrity of the oil.

Smoked olive oil is gaining popularity among chefs and home cooks alike for its unique flavour profile. It is widely available in speciality food stores, gourmet shops, and online. As consumers become more adventurous with their cooking, the demand for such speciality products is on the rise. For those interested in making smoked olive oil at home, the process is relatively simple: select high-quality olive oil, prepare a smoking setup using a smoker or stovetop smoking box with preferred wood chips, and use the cold smoking method to avoid heating the oil.