Product Review: Trader Joe’s Rice Bran Oil, Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

This Rice Bran Oil from Trader Joe's can really pull its own weight...without adding any to your food.

This Rice Bran Oil from Trader Joe’s can really pull its own weight…without adding any to your food.

I’ve been debating for quite some time about putting reviews on my blog. Part of it had to do with considering the so-called “big picture;” where exactly am I taking this blog, and what do I ultimately want to do with it? After much consideration, I’ve decided that reviews might be a good thing. People often ask me about a product and whether or not I like it. The problem that usually arises is a rather predictable potential conflict of interest. Should I be honest about it, whether it be good, bad, or indifferent? Will too much honesty cause vendors to not send me things to review? Will it potentially result in a loss of advertising revenue?

Well, since I don’t exactly do this for the money (Blogging pays crap, kids, so don’t say I didn’t warn you), I decided I’m more or less safe from this kind of scrutiny. Yes, there exists plenty of potential for a blogger such as myself to make money off of my brand, but in all seriousness, the likelihood of just blogging constituting any sort of a respectable second income is pretty much zero. So, by being blatantly honest, I don’t really have much to lose, save for maybe a few missed food and cookware-related test samples (but let’s face it, if companies are put off by a possible bad review, their product probably isn’t all that fantastic anyway) and a little bit of grocery money. Yeah, my integrity’s worth a little more than that. So, here I go, down a potentially slippery slope to blog suicide. Or success. It’s really anybody’s guess.

Now that I’ve gotten that nastiness out of the way, it’s with a clear conscience that I can review Trader Joe’s Rice Bran Oil (certified OU pareve). This is a new product for them, and quite frankly, I’m very happy to see it now in the US. I have not yet encountered other US brands that make this kind of oil, so I will speak from a strictly technical point of view here, since I don’t have anything else in recent memory to which I can compare it. However, I’m pleased to say that I’m really liking this product.

The product of rice germ, the oil is very light, and advertises an extremely high smoke point; somewhere in excess of 400 degrees Fahrenheit (the label boasts 431, whereas more conservative estimates put it around 415…but still!). I put this oil to the test making a batch of Eggplant Parmesan (I’ll give an approximate “recipe” before this review’s through), in which I sliced, salted, breaded, and fried the eggplant in the rice bran oil.

The flavor was very pleasantly mild and unobtrusive, and didn’t leave a heavy, greasy, residue. And, true to advertising, deep frying with it was virtually worry-free, as I did not have to skate the thin line of “hot enough,” and “too hot,” (aka, OMG! It’s smoking!) something that gets a little tricky with an electric stove. Although I really like peanut oil for high-heat applications, there are issues with it, namely allergies for some, and the faint taste and smell of peanuts it imparts on food. I’m fine with both of these “drawbacks,” but I have to say, I’m quite impressed with this rice bran oil.

The clincher for me is rice bran oil’s nutritional properties. No doubt, you’ve probably noticed the statement on the label, “8,000 PPM Oryzanol.” Well, in this case, it actually turns out to be a good thing. Oryzanol is an antioxidant, which we are told that we need more of, apparently. However, unlike antioxidants that exist in other oils, this particular one (or, at least as it naturally exists in rice bran oil) is remarkably stable, even at very high temperatures. Where the antioxidants in olive oil, canola oil, and other oils break down once the oil is heated, rice bran oil’s antioxidants remain relatively constant, for the most part. Additionally, studies on rice bran oil positively link it to improving cholesterol levels, decreasing hot flashes during menopause, and a myriad of other usefully healthy things, ranging from decreasing stomach acidity to inhibiting excessive platelet aggregation. And, anecdotally speaking, it seems to get you pretty regular pretty fast. But not in a bad way. *ahem*

So, given all of these fantastic things that go along with rice bran oil, the question really is, why not cook with it? As far as cooking oils go, it’s one of the more inexpensive oils (as opposed to olive oil, for instance, which is prized for its characteristic flavor), but unlike other inexpensive oils, it’s so much healthier. All in all, this is something I’m keeping in my pantry, and will use often.

Here’s the approximate recipe for my…

Eggplant Parmesan
serves about 6

2 large-ish eggplants, sliced to about 1/4 of an inch
kosher salt
rice flour or corn starch
egg whites, beaten
Rice Bran Oil
panko crumbs
garlic powder
Marinara sauce
Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese
truffle oil (optional)

1) In a large colander, place a layer of eggplant slices, and sprinkle with salt to lightly coat the slices (don’t worry, the salt is there to draw out the bitterness, and will not make the eggplant excessively salty). Continue adding layers and salting them until you’ve salted all of the slices. Let the eggplant sit (preferably over a sink) for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Salting the eggplant draws out its bitterness, and allows it to fry up nice and crispy, because it removes excess moisture.

Salting the eggplant draws out its bitterness, and allows it to fry up nice and crispy, because it removes excess moisture.

2) Squeeze each eggplant slice until it’s dry. You may opt to squeeze the excess moisture out between sheets of paper towel, but squeezing in your fist is fine (you don’t need to be gentle most of the time). Put eggplant slices on a plate while you get the rest of the slices squeezed. Meanwhile, heat up about an inch and a half of rice bran oil in a heavy-bottomed pan or pot for deep frying (between 325° – 400°).

After salting, remove the excess moisture and salt by squeezing the slices.  It's kind of a pain, but worth it in the end.

After salting, remove the excess moisture and salt by squeezing the slices. It’s kind of a pain, but worth it in the end.

3) Place rice flour or corn starch, egg whites, and panko crumbs into their own bowls. Take each slice and dip into egg white, rice flour/starch, back into egg whites, and then coat thoroughly with panko crumbs. Gently place each slice into the hot oil, taking care not to crowd them. Flip the slices over when one side is browned, and place finished slices onto paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Repeat until all the slices are done in this way.

I like to use panko crumbs, because it keeps the eggplant crispy.  The rice flour adds another layer or crispness where the crumbs won't stick.

I like to use panko crumbs, because it keeps the eggplant crispy. The rice flour adds another layer or crispness where the crumbs won’t stick.

4) Oil the bottom of an 8×8 baking pan (I used truffle oil for extra flavor, but you can use any flavorful oil of your choice). Place a layer of eggplant, some marinara sauce, some mozzarella cheese (I cube mine because it results in a creamier melt. I find shreds tend to become rubbery), and lots of parmesan cheese. Repeat the layering, ending with a layer of eggplant and cheese. I don’t particularly like the eggplant saucy (I prefer to keep the slices as crispy as I can until serving), but use your best judgement here. You can always add more later. Place into a preheated 400° oven and bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let it sit for about 10 – 15 minutes to cool. Serve with a side of spaghetti with additional sauce.

I don't have a pretty plated shot of this dish, because this is all that's left of it.  No waiting to pose for Instagram here.  Hungry, hungry, Humans, what can I say?

I don’t have a pretty plated shot of this dish, because this is all that’s left of it. No waiting to pose for Instagram here. Hungry, hungry, Humans, what can I say?

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13 thoughts on “Product Review: Trader Joe’s Rice Bran Oil, Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

  1. Hmm…a different way to treat the eggplant, I’ll have to try it! I’ve always rinsed the salt, but it looks like you just squeeze it? It sounds very tasty! Thanks for the review on the oil. I look forward to other reviews you may do. Now I need to visit Trader Joe’s……..

  2. With regard to the oil, would you suggest only using it for frying or do you have other suggestions? Do you like to use grapeseed oil and/or canola oil and when would you use each (baking, frying, dressings, etc.)? Thank you.

    • Shelly, I think this oil would work well for baking as well, although I haven’t tried it yet. I’m just thinking that the mild flavor and high smoke point would do well with cakes and pastries. I would also use it for stir fry. I used to use grapeseed oil a lot, but stopped because it seems to have a tendency to raise triglycerides in many people. Canola oil, I avoid, because it’s very unstable and has a bit of a fishy flavor to me when heated. The oils I DO like are olive oil, which I use for cold applications like dressing, bread dipping, making aioli, etc.; red palm oil, because of its high carotenoid content (that, and it’s absolutely BEAUTIFUL to look at), and coconut oil. The red palm oil is good for sautés, as is the coconut oil, but I use the coconut oil when I want the extra flavor (the palm oil doesn’t have much of a flavor to it). The coconut oil is also fantastic for baking breads, cookies, and chocolatey things likes brownies. You can check out a recipe for challah using coconut oil on this site here: http://www.allaya.com/2012/09/15/coconut-challah/ . Coconut oil is an oil I grew up with, and is so good for you!

      • Thanks so much for your detailed reply! So do you stay away from canola because it’s unhealthy, or simply because of its fishy flavor. I’m not sure how to interpret “very unstable.” Canola used to be THE HEALTHY option to vegetable oil, and now, I don’t know what’s healthy and what’s not anymore!
        Also, does coconut oil add a coconut flavor? I notice that people who do not like coconut flavor cannot handle coconut yogurt, ice cream, etc. which i find to be a fantastic pareve option. But if I start baking with coconut oil, will everything get a coconut flavor (which is hit or miss with guests)? Thanks again for taking your time to respond to my questions.

        • Whether or not to use canola oil is really a personal preference, I think. For me the fishy smell and flavor it has is really the deal breaker. However, regarding the instability issues, what I mean by that are the ease with which the various components in the oil break down and Change into something else. We generally want oils with high levels of omega-3′s, antioxidants and other goodies. The problem is, once oils are heated, there is a tendency for these compounds to change, or worse, turn into something we don’t want. The jury is officially out regards canola oil, but the fishy smell and the quickness with which it goes rancid tells me that, unless you’re using it rather frequently, it may not be the best choice…at least for me. That’s what I mean by instability. Canola oil is also very highly refined, and it’s hard to tell whAt methods any given manufacturer uses. Generally speaking, the more refined the product, the more things can potentially be chemically altered, and the more things are chemically altered, the greater the chance things could go wrong soon or n the future.

        • That said, the coconut oils have options as well. The standard coconut oil will have a bit of a coconut fragrance to it. However. You can also opt for the filtered, or de-scented coconut oil, which is a more refined product (I know, after that long lecture! This isn’t nearly as scary, though). The best thing is, despite the extra refining of the descended coconut oil, the nutritional values remain almost the same as with the untreated coconut oil. To me, the refined oil doesn’t smell like much of anything, let Lone coconuts, but you should give it a sniff first. I have used it for guests who don’t like the smell or flavor of coconut, and they didn’t seem to pick up on it, so it may be a good option for you.

          • Thanks again for all of your valuable information. I will definitely get some coconut and rice bran oil!
            I love your blog and I greatly appreciate you taking the time to answer all of my questions.

  3. Glad to read this. I’ve been seeing this at T.J.’s and debating on whether to get some or not. I usually use coconut oil, but this will be nice to have when I need a liquid oil.

  4. Just obtained my first bottle at TJs then went on line to learn more and came to your blog. I also sat through a 5 minute video Dr. Oz did on it and want to mention that he had a mom who decided to make a chocolate cake using rice bran oil rather than butter, and she and her family loved it and could tell no difference. So there ya go! I’m excited to finally get an oil that can stand up to all my stir-frying without my worrying too much.

  5. A question … in the Cancer Project cooking classes, they discuss the issue of arsenic levels in rice and to consider replacing rice with grains due to the carcinogenic element of arsenic. I just bought Trader Joes Rice Bran oil yesterday because of the obvious health benefits but I’m wondering about it having arsenic levels as well given what it is made from. I’m having a hard time finding much specific to that oil & arsenic though. Do you or anyone else know where I can find this. I’m a cancer survivor so I obviously don’t want to intentionally consume carcinogens. I’d really appreciate any info. Thanks.

    • Hi Barb! First, it’s wonderful news to hear you win your battle. B”H, one day, we will find a cure. Eating well is certainly a start, so you’re definitely in the right track with your research. Unfortunately, I’m not terribly knowledgable in this particular area of food and nutrition. What I can tell you is that, after looking over the goVernment report on the arsenic levels in rice,the problem *appears* to be coming from mostly domestic rice. I encourage you to find the report and make your own decisions based in that. Both my OB and my GP doctor seem to believe it’s not too much of a concerning factor, unless I eat it every day. I used to, but since I’ve moved here, I don’t so much, so I guess I’m in the clear! LOL I can also tell you that, based on my background in chemistry, that there are,, in fact, arsenic compounds that are lipid (fat) soluble. Now, whether or not the arsenic in rice dwells in the bran of the rice or the endosperm is something else I don’t know. Incidentally, lipid soluble arsenic compounds are turning up with increasing frequency in fish, so this might also be a topic of interest to you.

      I wish I could be of more help, but that was an excellent question. Best of luck! Please share any interesting information you happen to find. Thanks for writing! – Allaya

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