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Mar 6, 2010 09:26 PM

Martha and Emeril reveal their knowledge of basic cooking oils. Busted.

Caught a few minutes of the lunchtime broadcast of Martha Stewart show, where Emeril was selling product (boxed rice, spice, and cast iron pans) and showing how to fry chicken.

I don't mean to "bash" here, and a Tivoed tape would better give a verbatim on my recollected transcript, but I was appalled at the moment when E. said he used vegetable oil, and Martha casually asked him "what kind of vegetable oil" and he replied "just.. vegetable oil" and she gently pressed "but which kind?" and he said "vegetable oil" and E. recountered, "vegetable oil" flinching in misunderstanding.

Does the King of Cajun Fry-up not know that all "vegetable oils" are labeled as to species origin. be it canola or soybean (the 2 most common when marketed as "vegetable oil"). His body language showed that he was busted.

Martha co-dependently countered, in a deft move to save the segment, with "well Mom always used Crisco... that's vegetable oil, right? (Crisco's name come from Crystallized Cottonseed Oil, unknowingly twisting the discussion into artificial hygrogenation. )

So there we were. I stared at the TV in disbelief rather than insert the next bite of my lunch. Two of the biggest millionaire players, showing an absolute lack of understanding of the absolute basics.

I'm surprised that they aired the episode without a director running in to delicately demand a reshoot.. But apparently the bottom line was that with all that "food power".... nobody knew.

So, rather than bashing them, I simple chuckled, finished my sandwich, and celebrated those of us empowered cooks who choose our oils knowledgeably and carefully.

Martha and Emeril followers, is it worth bringing email attention to their websites?

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  1. i was trying to find a video clip to watch for myself, so of course i checked Martha's website - they posted Emeril's fried chicken recipe (it's apparently from one of his cookbooks) and it actually calls for *peanut* oil...but i'm guessing that's not what they used for the demo on the show, because they would have been able to identify it by the aroma.

    BTW, no luck on the video clip.

    2 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      IT was broadcast today. No telling of date of original taping, as martha is apparently carrying her self to another network. But I would think that it is strictly contemporary. So they haven't archived it in youtube form yet.

      There was no mention of peanut oil, or any other species. It was a "clusterfry"... no noses or eptitude at work. That's why I was appalled enough to make this possibly inflammatory post.

      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        The recipe actually looks pretty good. The only thing I would do different is use self-rising flour. Of all the fried chicken recipes I've tried, self-rising flour seems to turn out better... crunchier.

        In terms of oil... whatever is on sale. I do like peanut oil for the faint hint of peanutty goodness it imparts to foods, but that stuff is over $2 more expensive.

      2. In defense of the two of them, not even food moguls can/do know everything, but it seems that basic vegetable oil knowledge is something they should be quite clear on. Maybe Emeril was thinking peanut oil, which many chefs use for deep frying, and he lost his concentration or encountered massive confusion when Martha asked him "what type..." but that's just speculation on my part. Awkward at the very least.

        GHG- Highly refined peanut oil, which is what would be used for frying chicken, or anything else, for that matter, has a extremely subtle peanut aroma and would not be noticed during frying, much like any other higly refined oil. Unrefined peanut oil does have a wonderful peanut aroma, but you wouldn't use that oil for deep frying. Not only that, if Martha/Emeril don't know jack about vegetable oil, they certainly wouldn't be able to identify a subtle frying oil aroma.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bushwickgirl

          I was remiss in my OP not to clearly state: please view the original video to see the nuances and the body language. It may take weeks for that to surface, if ever.

          I would not have posted this gossip-like gotcha were I not appalled. May I respectfully move the metaphor from "Not knowing Sh*t from Shinola" to "Not knowing soy from canola". (peanut is my kudo oil too as offers it's high smoke point).

          In fairness, let's let the video record a chance to surface. Then we can see if they are really cooks.

          1. re: FoodFuser

            I almost watched this episode, but went to my favorite reruns of ER. Oh well.
            FWIW, I don't feel you're being at all gossipy it pointing out this one (glaring) error, you're not bashing Martha/Emeril, just their lack of knowledge. Let's chalk it up to TV jitters for Emeril.

        2. After thirty years of frying Emeril probably views a few high temperature vegetable oils as being interchangeable and not essential to the dish. To my knowledge, soybean, peanut. safflower are heat resistant oils

          Right or wrong, Emeril would say you are being too precise. Emeril was excluding animal fats and oils and I think that was his main concern

          1 Reply
          1. re: zzDan

            Emeril's recipe calls for peanut oil. why specify a particular oil if it doesn't matter? note, i'm not pointing this out to call foul on Emeril's part, but to address your assumption that he views them as interchangeable. i think MplsMary was correct in he comment below - Emeril had a brain fart on this one. we've all had them, and i'm guilty of it on a pretty regular basis!

          2. A couple weeks ago I spent a day trying to remember the word ‘falafel.’ My sister and I met up in Vegas and I was telling her about my weekly lunches with our uncle. After two years of weekly lunches uncle and I finally found a place we both truly enjoy because he can get a great corned beef sandwich and I order the falafel platter. Not being able to remember ‘falafel’ was just a goofy glitch. Off camera, thank goodness.

            Come on, this is a tempest in a teaspoon,

            Have you never had a brain fart? Oh, and they (bf’s) are contagious – when a friend can’t remember, like as not you mayn’t either.

            2 Replies
            1. re: MplsM ary

              i think you're right. there's no question that after 30 years the guy knows what he's doing, and [as much as it pains me to say this] i'm sure Martha knows her oils well too. as bushwickgirl pointed out above, highly refined peanut oil doesn't have much of an aroma - i had a brain fart *myself* on that one because i don't really fry anymore, so the peanut oil i'm accustomed to using these days has a very distinct peanutty smell...but the stuff they were using wouldn't.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                Absolutely -- any one of us can glitch, and that's compounded many, many times over by being in front of a live audience.

                And furthermore, fried chicken at home isn't a high-heat application with oil you plan on reusing for hours at a time. I'd feel comfortable doing it in pretty much anything, though my preference would be Crisco (which no longer has trans fats).

            2. One thing Emeril always touted is that cooking is not rocket science. I bet when Martha kept pushing the point, I can imagine he what he was thinking... "It doesn't freakin' matter what type of vegetable oi. Vegetable oil is vegetable oil. Martha, why are you wasting airtime talking about this bs."

              In the US, vegetable oil is pure soybean oil. If you look at the ingredients of Wesson and Crisco vegetable oil and any other house-brand veg oil, it's soybean oil. For the blends, a lot of marketing goes into pointing out that the oil is a "blend" with heart healthy canola.

              In regards to Crisco, Crisco does sell vegetable oil which I doubt was available when Martha's mom was around. I would have thought Crisco veg oil instead of Crisco shortening.

              4 Replies
              1. re: dave_c

                >>"In the US, vegetable oil is pure soybean oil."<<

                Exactly. "What kind of vegetable oil?" is a stupid question. You buy the big bottle that says "Vegetable Oil" on it. Done and done. Sure, you could send the viewers to the fine print on the side that lists the ingredient ("soybean oil"), but why not just tell them what the big print on the front of the label says?

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  that's just what I was thinking. At the grocery, the bottles are labeled "corn", "canola", "peanut", or "vegetable". So he's saying the one labeled "vegetable" is a-ok. Whatever.

                    1. re: phantomdoc

                      sure fine-- that wasn't my point. My point was that Emeril saying "vegetable oil" is not a silly statement.