The past decade has seen growing consumer interest in Mustard Oil. Doctors (in particular, cardiologists) have been recommending it; nutritionists have been saying positive things about it; newspapers and magazines have carried large feature articles on the diverse health benefits that the oil has to offer; and overall, there is a positive buzz surrounding Mustard Oil. This has led to growing consumer confidence as a result of which many health-conscious Gen Next members have gravitated back to Mustard Oil.
However, this wave in favour of Mustard Oil has also whetted the appetite of some opportunistic manufacturers and marketers who decided to cash in on this trend with a view to making a fast buck from the product’s popularity – but manufacturing cold-pressed Mustard Oil of superior quality and assured purity is not an easy task. The natural cold-pressing process yields just about 25 to 30 percent of oil. The rest is oil cake that goes into cattle feed and other industrial uses. That’s why cold-pressed Mustard Oil is far more expensive in comparison with refined oils.
Now here’s the problem. When the quick-buck driven manufacturers/marketers found that making that quick buck wasn’t easy at all, they fell back on practices that can only be described as dishonest. Such malpractices include blending cold-pressed mustard oil with refined oils (which are significantly cheaper); manufacturing mustard oil using solvent extraction methods that involve several harmful chemicals and destroy many of the oil’s vital nutrients; and extracting mustard oil using expellers that generate heat, thereby destroying the nutrients.
And that brings us to the big question: How can you be sure that the Mustard Oil you are buying is cold-pressed and pure? Well, there are some simple tests that you can carry out at home.
The Pungency Test: Place a few drops of the Mustard Oil in the palm of your hand. Cup your hand and bring the oil close to your nostrils. Breathe in the aroma. Do you feel a sting in your nose? Does the oil have a sharp tingle? If your mustard oil is of good quality, you will feel this typical sting – it may even make your eyes water slightly. This characteristic pungency is one of the touchstones for judging Mustard Oil. However, you should be aware that some manufacturers are adding “artificial pungency” in the form of chemical substances – so be careful. In addition to this Pungency Test, use the other tests mentioned below to be sure.
The Smoking Test: When you heat Mustard Oil in a pan, it emits whiffs of white smoke on reaching its smoking point. The great thing about cold-pressed Mustard Oil is that it has a very high smoking point: 250 degrees Celsius. This makes it ideal for Indian cooking which involves a significant amount of deep frying, shallow frying and prolonged exposure to heat. What’s more, even at its smoking point, the oil retains all its nutrients – including the natural antioxidants it contains.
If the oil you are using does not emit smoke, it means that it has in all probability been blended with some other oil. Marketers may try to deceive you by calling the oil “Low Smoke” or “Smoke Free” – don’t fall for these shenanigans.
The Visual Test: Cold-pressed Mustard Oil has a deep yellow silken texture with high viscosity and clear translucence (in spite of its thick consistency). Hold the bottle up against a source of light and you will be able to see the above qualities. However, if the oil is turbid, watery or lighter in colour, it raises doubts about its purity. Moreover, if there is any foam or froth on top of the oil, it may indicate the presence of impurities.
Be sure – after all buying the right Mustard Oil is vital to your family’s health and wellness. So test your oil. Be vigilant. Be aware.