Avocado oil in non-tiny quantities?
February 19, 2007 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Please help me find a good "bulk" supplier of edible, refined avocado oil. (more inside)

My sweetie and I have lately taken to cooking a lot of food at high heat in a Cantonese cast iron wok. This is both for food geek and health reasons. From a food/cooking geekery perspective when using a wok, the idea is to get the heat in the wok and the oil as high as possible to help attain the authentic flavor of Chinese cooking. While we generally use refined peanut oil, refined avocado oil has a much higher smoke point, which roughly translates to being able to cook at higher temperatures.

Now, unfortunately, while I did manage to buy an 8 oz bottle of avocado oil (brand: Spectrum Naturals, from: Whole Foods) recently, and it did demonstrate the proper properties in cooking/eating for the wok cooking, it cost about US$9.00 (Yes, that would be about US$1.10 per ounce).

I am pretty certain I saw some refined, edible avocado oil at some point recently in a half or full gallon container, and that its price was well under US$100 (more like US$60-US$70 for a gallon). Can anyone help me find that in a retail store or online?

Be careful not to confuse edible avocado oil with cosmetic. I understand they're rated and refulated differently, even if they're both refined.

Thanks very much in advance!
posted by kalessin to Food & Drink (18 answers total)
Heres a gallon for $53. (scroll down)
posted by Floydd at 8:04 PM on February 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

If you know someone with a food or cosmetics business.

Otherwise, this may be food grade.

Safflower oil seems much cheaper, and has almost as high a smoke point.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:39 PM on February 19, 2007

Call Mike Lawson at Columbus Foods: (800) 322-6457 ext:230, if you're willing to buy at least a gallon, and are prepared to pay shipping...assume a gallon weighs 7-8 pounds shipping weight.

Mike is my go-to guy for all my bulk oil purchases. Columbus is the largest trader/importer/ of veggie oils in the country. I don't use much avocado oil, so I can't speak to the grades available for it, but Mike pretty much knows everything there is to know about oils, so he can answer any questions you have.

Hope that helps!
posted by dejah420 at 10:26 PM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'll second BrotherCaine; there are other oils with high smoke points as well and that are more cost effective or available.

But be careful, the site linked to for safflower oil says it's unrefined which has a low smoke point according to Wikipedia. I think a bit more research is prudent, but I don't think avocado is necessary for your purpose unless you're specifically attached to it.
posted by 6550 at 11:27 PM on February 19, 2007

I don't know why my link didn't work, it worked in preview. Trying again: Wikipedia.
posted by 6550 at 11:29 PM on February 19, 2007

Floydd, BrotherCaine, I've sent queries in to customer service for the two avocado oil vendors you've linked to. BrotherCaine, thank you also for the idea of working with someone who's already in cosmetics/food. I may also be able to order through a neighborhood or high-end grocery if it comes to that.

It looks like there are two kinds of safflower oil, per 6550's Wikipedia link. I need to do more research to find out (1) if safflower oil is also burdened with similar (good) health portents as avocado and (2) whether it's the high oleic safflower or the high linoleic safflower that has the 510F smoke point. Good ideas, all.

Thank you also, dejah420, for the reference to Mike Lawson. I'll call him soon (probably today). markings as best answers will be delayed in all cases, but thank you for the leads, all of you. Talking about it has helped immensely already.
posted by kalessin at 7:09 AM on February 20, 2007

The answer from FromNatureWithLove (BrotherCaine's this may be food grade link suggestion):
Thank you for taking the time to write to us. Although our Avocado Oil is completely natural, and many customers do purchase our ingredients for internal use, we are not certified or authorized to recommend our products for consumption. Our ingredients are provided to our customers for cosmetic and skincare uses.

I hope this information has been helpful. Please let me know if you have any additional questions or if I may be of further assistance to you. Have a wonderful day!


Customer Service
From Nature With Love
posted by kalessin at 7:57 AM on February 20, 2007

You may also want to talk to the grocery guy at your local Whole Foods. They will likely be willing/able to order it in bulk for you - you'll get a case discount on a case of smaller jars, and I know that Columbus is a Whole Foods supplier, so you may be able to get the store to special order a gallon jug. (I used to work at WF and we special ordered stuff for people all the time.)
posted by rtha at 8:36 AM on February 20, 2007

I'm a little curious what the cooking benefits are of using a high smoke point oil?

When I was in Paris visiting my dad I made gumbo for dinner one night, which starts with a roux base: floured cooked in oil. At home I'd been using Canola or something and adding the flour when the oil started smoking, then whisking for a long time until it was dark enough for me (nearly black but not burned). Whatever oil he got in Paris had a very high smoke point, apparently. The flour instantly burned when put in. I threw that batch away and started again with the oil at a much lower temperature. I wish I knew what type of oil he had, though I suspect neither of us knew enough French to figure it out.

Anyway, rice bran oil has a 495 smoke point. That might be another to look into. Wikipedia's article said it's a popular oil for stir fry.
posted by 6550 at 9:33 AM on February 20, 2007

I got a follow-up to a question I sent to SoapersChoice.com (the primary storefront of ColumbusFoods.net), from Mike Lawson himself (I'd sent the query to their general inquiries e-mail address).

He says their 91207SC Avocado Oil, Expeller Pressed (which is also refined) that comes in a 7 Pound (1 gallon) Bottle for $27.72 = $3.96 Per Pound is food grade. Here's the product sheet where it appears. So that's $27.72 plus s/h, which I think I may be able to afford. I'll query him about that soon.

More updates to follow, but thank you, dejah420.

Thanks also to rtha, that's where I got the 8oz bottle from Spectrum Naturals that I experimented with, so I'll follow up with a query to their customer service department (probably today).

6550, the high smoke point oil lets me get the overall cooking heat up to that point and cook in it, which is a very good thing for wok cooking (assuming you don't have ingredients that need a lower temperature). Since mostly I'm trying to sear the living crap out of brassicas, onion-types and other foods as quickly as possible, the high heat is really good for that. I can totally see how it wouldn't help at all in making a roux, though.

There's a particular quality of wok cooking called "wok hay" (for more about this, see Breath of a Wok (Amazon) by Grace Young). Part of the way you get "wok hay" is by cooking your food in a wok at really high heat.
posted by kalessin at 10:06 AM on February 20, 2007

P.S. Shipping from ColumbusFoods.net / SoapersChoice.com is $7.06 to where I live (Baltimore, MD) on a 7 pound bottle, so that's $34.78 total including shipping, or about $0.27/oz. Cheap!
posted by kalessin at 10:11 AM on February 20, 2007

Er, $0.27/fluid oz. Or $0.31/weight oz.
posted by kalessin at 10:12 AM on February 20, 2007

Just tried Whole Foods (one of the branches local to where I live) and they say they can only order from Spectrum Naturals, which, unfortunately, is about $55/48 oz. I dropped the name "Columbus Foods" to their grocery manager who said he was pretty sure he could only order from Spectrum Naturals. Oh well, I may try the other location later today.
posted by kalessin at 10:29 AM on February 20, 2007

Sounds like you're at least on the right track now. Does your city have an Asian section? If you've never been it's worth going just to see the stuff they've got. It's the only place in Denver I've been able to find crawfish reliably. They might have suitable oils for stir frying in larger quantities, or be able to point you somewhere local that has it.

I requested that book from my library. Thanks for the rec. I'm kind of bored with my cooking now and should try something new.
posted by 6550 at 11:04 AM on February 20, 2007

6550, we regularly go to H-Mart and Lotte because Baltimore, while entirely lacking a Chinatown or Japantown, does have a huge Korean population. Both of these stores are about 30 minutes' drive from where we live in Downtown Baltimore, located west of Baltimore in Elicott City/Catonsville, MD.

I'll look for Rice Bran oil when I'm next there. Thank you for that recommendation.

H-Mart for us is one of the best suppliers of fish and asian produce in the area.

The other two books you might want to look at (that we've really been enjoying) are Revolutionary Cooking and Land of Plenty, both by Fuschia Dunlop.

Also if you're looking for genuine wok supplies and are cool with paying S&H, the Wok Shop (despite some crap Web Design) is a really authoritative vendor of various woks designed for different kinds of stovetops (we bought a Cantonese cast iron wok with wok ring for our gas burner - just take the normal grids off, put the wok ring down and the wok sits about 1/4" off the burners - perfect for extremely high heat cooking).
posted by kalessin at 11:23 AM on February 20, 2007

I've requested those books as well.

I don't have a wok but next time I'm in the right area I'll see what's available; I'll use the Wok Shop if nothing looks really suitable. I wish I had a gas stove; I do at least have a gas burner on my BBQ.
posted by 6550 at 1:39 PM on February 20, 2007

The cool thing about gas burners on BBQs is that they can sometimes pump out the 15000 BTU + that Grace Young claims is required for this wok hay business. :)
posted by kalessin at 7:39 AM on February 21, 2007

Turkey fryers are great for woks too, and nowadays you can find them for <$50.
posted by hihowareyou at 2:05 AM on February 22, 2007

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