Some people using Mustard Oil in a recipe for the first time get confused by the instruction: Heat the mustard oil in a pan till it reaches its smoking point. The confusion stems from the fact that other oils don’t have any such instructions.
Mustard Oil has a high smoking point – which makes it ideal for Indian cooking and deep-frying. Indian food, especially the gravy dishes, require extended periods of heating and cooking, and Mustard Oil with its high smoking point has a distinct advantage over other oils in this regard because it retains all its natural nutrients even when the oil reaches its smoking point.
When Mustard Oil reaches its smoking point it emits a white misty smoke; in the old days, this smoke acted as a natural insect repellent, keeping mosquitoes and other creepy crawlies away from the kitchen and the food. On reaching its smoking point, the oil emits a gentle silky heat and takes on a translucent golden colour and texture. It’s beautiful!
So how can you tell when your Mustard Oil is ready for you to begin cooking? First of all, your nose will tell you when the time is right. The smoke rising from the pan will fill your kitchen with a warm, aromatic pungency. There’s another simple “test” that your grandmother’s (or mother’s) generation used. They would take a raw onion peel and drop it into the oil and take it out immediately with a spoon or ladle. If the onion peel turns brown, your Mustard Oil is ready.
And when your Mustard Oil is ready, the culinary magic in your kitchen is all set to begin.