Is Rachael Ray Wrong?

Rachael Ray inspired me to attend culinary school.  She joined The Food Network at the same time I discovered cooking shows.  Man, I loved her, still do!  Through her eyes, cooking became possible.  She used fresh ingredients, mostly from scratch.  And, I thought, “I can do that…” In my opinion, Rachael Ray and many other TV chefs are really important for America.  They remind us that cooking is within each of us.  They teach us how to nourish ourselves and our families.  It is a very important job.

One of Rachael’s signature phrases, EVOO was a staple next to my stove.  I started every dish from a fried egg to stir-fried vegetables with extra virgin olive oil, proud of myself that I was using an unrefined variety.  That’s what extra virgin means, right?  Unrefined.  No chemicals involved.  Why would I ever want to use a refined oil, when an unrefined version was only slightly more expensive?

Let’s talk about Smoke Point for a minute.  Smoke Point is a common culinary term describing the temperature at which an oil begins smoking in the pan, not just a bit of steamy heat. When oil is smoking strongly, you’ve exceeded the heat limit for that oil, and it’s becoming rancid.  Unrefined vegetable oils (including extra virgin olive oil) have relatively low smoke points.  Smoke points are highly debatable and depend upon the source of each oil.  However, Extra Virgin Olive Oil’s smoke point is consistently listed as less than 300˚F, and I would question any listings of a higher temperature. Having spent a great deal of time in the kitchen, I can tell you first-hand that EVOO begins smoking pretty quickly.

What does this mean?  EVOO should only be used in a relatively light saute or most appropriately, a salad. Keep in mind – less nutritionally desirable, chemically processed vegetable oils, including Refined Olive Oil, have a much higher smoke point.  However, when my beloved Rachael Ray and almost every other television chef are midst heavily browning onions, it’s extra virgin olive oil in their pan.

How did this happen?

We have kicked valuable animal fats, the fats that sustained our ancestors for always, out of our kitchens.  Animal fats, like Lard, Beef Tallow and Ghee, have high cooking temperatures, very suitable for heavy sautes and frying.  Fast-food restaurants used Beef Tallow in their deep fryers before the world got the incorrect memo that Saturated Fats kill.  Here’s a helpful article for you that makes a lot of common sense to me – Know Your Fats by Sally Fallon.  Therefore when Rachael Ray and the rest of us attempted to steer away from Refined Oils, where could we turn?  Back to unrefined, forgetting all about that pesky smoke point.

Let’s return healthy grass-fed and pastured animal fats back to our kitchens, forget about chemically-processed refined oils, stay simple and eat well.

Here’s how I commonly use fats & oils in my kitchen:

Any high-temperature fat can be used for low temperatures.  This list simply states my favorites for each application.

Example – French Fries, Deep-Fried Chicken
Fat – Grass-fed Beef Tallow

Example – Fried Egg, Home Fries, Pan-fried Steak
FatGrass-fed Beef Tallow, Pastured Lard, Pastured Bacon Drippings, Grass-Fed Ghee

Example – Sauteed Vegetables
Fat – Pastured Bacon Drippings, Grass-Fed Ghee, Unrefined Coconut Oil & Grass-Fed Butter

Example – Sweating onions for soup, Simmering garlic to toss over green beans
Fat – Pastured Bacon Drippings, Grass-Fed Ghee, Unrefined Coconut Oil, Grass-Fed Butter or Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Example – Balsamic Vinaigrette, Caprese Salad
Fat – Extra Virgin Olive Oil & all other unrefined vegetable oils

Hope this helps!

xo –

Organic Spark



  • Kate Mockus

    I thought lard was a monounsaturated not a saturated fat.

    March 25, 2012
    • Molly Chester

      Hi Kate, It has less saturated fat than butter, but it still has a high percentage of saturated. I corrected my inference in the article though, so as not to cause confusion – thanks!

      March 25, 2012
  • Great post! You know, Rachel’s brand of EVOO was actually one of the ones tested and found to be laced with cheap veggie oils from the study done at UC Davis! Pretty sad.

    March 25, 2012
  • Great post Molly!

    March 25, 2012
  • Rebecca

    I love to pop popcorn on the stove, but do sometimes see my oil start to smoke. What would be best to use for popcorn?

    March 25, 2012
    • Molly Chester

      Hi Rebecca – I love to use Ghee for popcorn. My friend Carrie Vitt (of the blog Deliciously Organic) also has a great recipe for “Movie Theater Popcorn” in her book of the same name as her blog. I highly recommend the book in general, too. Try the butterflied chicken… yum.

      March 25, 2012
    • I love using coconut oil for popcorn. It adds great flavor!

      March 26, 2012
    • I use coconut oil for popcorn, too. Love it!

      March 26, 2012
    • Carrie

      I use a mix of ghee & bacon fat. Then you don’t have to add butter or salt at the end & it’s delish!

      May 10, 2012
  • Anna

    Thanks for posting, Molly – so interesting! What do you recommend for roasting vegetables? Do you use olive oil?

    March 25, 2012
    • Molly Chester

      For roasting veg at 400, I use ghee or bacon renderings. For roasting at 350, butter, coconut oil or the above two! Thanks for reading Anna! :)

      March 25, 2012
  • Wendy

    Popcorn pops great in coconut oil. It has a very high smoke point and the flavor compliments it well.

    March 25, 2012
  • thanks for the inspiration and insight – great post, Molly!

    March 25, 2012
  • lauri

    What is ghee

    March 25, 2012
  • lisa

    What about grape seed oil or grapeola? I use that a lot for grilling?

    March 25, 2012
    • Molly Chester

      Most likely, it is a refined grapeseed oil, and I choose not to use refined oils. If not, you are using an unrefined grapeseed oil, and I do not feel it can handle heat at all. I don’t oil my steaks, instead I put a hunk of butter on when it comes off the grill. Sometimes I brush my burgers with bacon fat, or use ghee.

      March 26, 2012
  • Casi Howell

    What is ghee? and do you ever use peanut oil?

    March 25, 2012
  • I second the comment above about coconut oil for popcorn, it’s my very favorite. :)

    Love this post, Molly, FB’ing it now…


    March 26, 2012
    • Personally i like using walnut oil or olive oil for popcorn. But I like the idea of coconut oil. That sounds very tasty.
      Thank You,

      May 12, 2012
  • Interesting post. I understand the arguments for using animal fats and use grass-fed organic butter and ghee sometimes, but prefer to use plant-based sources of fat and love coconut oil. Over the last few years, I’ve discovered a whole world of oils that I never knew existed (I was also brainwashed by the EVOO craze several years ago). I’m wondering if anyone has taken a close look at Spectrum Naturals line of oils and if so, what people have taken away from what they’ve found.

    March 26, 2012
  • Kelley

    Can you purchase Grass-fed Beef Tallow and Pastured Lard? If so who do you recommend?

    March 27, 2012
    • Molly Chester

      Yes, I believe US Wellness Meats sells Tallow. Possibly Lard, too. And remember to save your bacon drippings!

      July 14, 2012
  • Leanne

    Very helpful. Do you know anything about palm oil? I’ve used it for frying, since there’s no coconut flavor. But I’d love to know your take on it. Thanks!

    March 28, 2012
    • Molly Chester

      I believe the red palm oil, unrefined, has a high smoke point. So, I believe it can be used for frying. It is not something I use. However, my friend Carrie Vitt, author of Deliciously Organic, has a great recipe for Movie Theater Popcorn in her book that uses Palm Oil.

      July 14, 2012
  • momde6

    YES, please comment on “Spectrum”. I recently found and bought it at my local store because it is “organic” and has high smoking point? I thought it would be better for higher temperatures, like stir fry and such.
    Thank you so much!

    March 29, 2012
    • Molly Chester

      Hi Momde6… if it has a high smoke point for coconut oil, it is likely refined. I choose to use unrefined, so that would not be my first choice. As far as Spectrum, I have used their oils before.

      July 14, 2012
  • Honestly I love a good olive oil to dip crusty bread in with a touch of balsamic. It’s one of those oh-so-simple pleasures I’ve always loved. Other than that, it goes into my dressings mostly but I do use it for grilling if I don’t have any bacon fat on hand. Bacon fat is pretty much my favorite!
    Thanks for the post, I am interested in checking out the different references you cited in your post as well as the comments; I have a lot to learn!

    April 7, 2012
  • David

    Molly — love all the posts and we really enjoy keeping up with what’s going on at the Farm. You guys are doing amazing things!

    April 10, 2012
    • Molly Chester


      July 14, 2012
  • Shari Morgan

    Duck fat makes the best popcorn ever!

    April 16, 2012
    • Molly Chester

      MMMMMM… I am going to HAVE to try that!

      July 14, 2012
  • Hans

    Came across this discussion and thought I’d give my two cents. I lived in Spain (about 20 years ago) for several years and learned to cook from many different Spanish grandmas and professionals. I was taught to use extra virgin oil exclusively for all types of cooking including high heat. When I returned to the states and began working in professional kitchens I am embarrassed to say that I bought into the misconception that you cannot use it for high heat from my fellow chefs. One day while giving a cooking class, I instructed the class not to use olive oil for high heat cooking. I was immediately called out by a young woman that said that her Italian grandmother used olive oil for everything. Since then I have repented and use extra virgin olive oil as my go to fat. By the way Spaniards laugh when they see the olive oils we have in our stores. Bottom line, if it works, use what you like.

    June 5, 2012
  • dp625

    How do you feel about using avocado oil?

    April 17, 2013
    • Molly Chester

      I am just beginning research on it, but it seems like it could be a good thing! High cooking temp for an unrefined oil! We tried it baking in a muffin, and it was delicious. Let me know if you learn more, and I will do the same.

      July 4, 2013

Leave a comment


Email(will not be published)*


Your comment*

Submit Comment