All you need to know about White Truffle Oil
The white truffle, known as the diamond of the kitchen, is a rare edible fungus that is highly prized for its unique flavor and aroma. But fresh truffles are often expensive and difficult to source, so chefs and home cooks often turn to truffle oil to impart their near-mythical flavor and aroma to dishes.
What is White Truffle Oil?
White truffle oil is a flavor compound found in white truffles. This compound, 2,4-dithiapentane, is just one of the hundreds of aromatic compounds that give truffles their elusive flavor and aroma. The vast majority of white truffle oil is made with synthetic 2,4-dithiapentane, which is derived from petroleum products.
Some products, labeled “all natural” and derived from foodstuffs like broccoli, garlic, celery, onions or mushrooms, contain 2,4-dithiapentane. This compound is present in fresh truffles as well but represents just one of the hundreds of flavor compounds present in fresh truffles. Some truffle oils will even contain bits of dried truffle which are visible inside the bottle. But the volatiles in those truffles are long gone and contribute no flavor at all. Which means that truffle oil is a pale representation of truffles.
Why do truffle hunters pay so much for the delicacy? One reason is that truffles are expensive. A pound of truffles can cost several thousand dollars; that is why they have been called “the caviar of vegetables.” Another reason is that there is no reliable way to extract their flavors. The compounds are highly volatile, and quickly disappear. Fresh truffles hold their flavor and aroma for only about five days; oils made by infusing actual truffles lose their potency equally quickly.
Nevertheless, truffle oil has been popular since the 1990s, both in restaurants and among home cooks. Generations of enthusiasts—including professional chefs—have grown up with a one-dimensional flavor of truffle oil, which many people seem to like. And tastes and preferences are highly personal; if someone has never tasted an actual truffle and is only familiar with “truffle” flavor by way of truffle oil, they may indeed genuinely enjoy that flavor. And in some sense, that’s all that matters; if you like it, you like it. If you don’t, you don’t feel that way about it. You’re not right or wrong about how you feel about it; you just happen to feel differently about it than someone else does.
How to Use White Truffle Oil?
Just because truffle oil isn’t made from truffles doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a potent flavor. It does. Which means truffle oil should be used sparingly. A drop of two of truffle oil drizzled on a dish just before serving is enough to impart its unique flavor. Truffle oil shouldn’t be used for cooking, since the flavor would be destroyed by the heat.
Eggs, pasta, pizza, mashed potatoes, vegetables, french fries, popcorn and risotto are all foods that can benefit from a judicious sprinkling of truffle oil.
What Does it Taste Like?
The flavor of truffle oil can vary widely, depending on the individual’s preference. The compound itself is earthy, pungent, mushroom-like or perfumy and can be described as artificial or even like gasoline. However, because the synthetic compound is difficult to digest, some diners find that its flavor lingers for a long time afterwards. The best-flavored products will come from natural ingredients, while truffle oil made with olive oil will generally have a base flavor of olive oil underneath the aroma of truffles itself.
Truffle oil is one of the most promising oils out there with a variety of health benefits.