6

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The taste of rancidity

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 26, 2010 at 6:41 PM

  • How to tell when a fat or oil is rancid? Does the taste provide a clue?

I have often been in the situation of tasting something, such as a walnut or some fish oil, that just didn't taste right - a sort of strong "stale" flavour - so there is now a type of taste that I intuitively associate with rancidity. I've noticed it in nuts, fish oil, butter and tallow that had been kept for a while in the fridge. But I'm not sure if I've correctly identified it... (sometimes I wonder if it's just natural variation in the flavour of foods from different origins) and I guess that sometimes fats can be rancid without their taste being noticeably affected.

I'm curious to know if other people have identified a type of taste they associate with rancidity, and if anyone wants to have a go at describing it (which I realise is difficult) that would be really helpful.

  • Also, am I right in thinking that when coming across something potentially rancid, the best course of action is to not eat it (because doing so might do more harm than good)?

902a7cd8f96bbc917a04e92b1f49dbd7

(787)

on May 28, 2012
at 10:09 PM

Nowadays though, boiled linseed oil is just plain linseed oil with "Japan drier" - metal salts that greatly speed up the polymerization. Would it still smell the same?

5ebeec76e20738d0a17cd724d64b1e0f

(1922)

on March 02, 2010
at 01:18 AM

+1. Generally, by the time you can taste rancidity in oil, it is **very** rancid (peroxidized).

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 27, 2010
at 02:30 PM

From "Consumer acceptance of canola oils during temperature-accelerated storage" about canola oil "Anecdotal evidence that people like the taste of some oxidized lipids has raised concern "

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 27, 2010
at 02:24 PM

It's also talked about in the excellent cookbook Fat by Jennifer McLagan when she talks about how refined oils are a bad choice. It's true. When my lard is bad it's pretty obvious, but my roommate's 2 year old canola oil doesn't smell like anything.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 27, 2010
at 02:23 PM

With whole foods like fish it is easier, but I do worry about canned fish myself as I eat it often. I looked up studies on the subject, but there weren't many. With a refined oil it's harder to detect rancidity by taste. The info about rancidity and taste is unfortunately in Oxidized Fat in the Diet by Jeffrey S. Cohn which you have to pay to access. Back when I read it I had academic access.

70d9359a2086e890a4c3bccb2ba8a8cb

(2254)

on February 27, 2010
at 11:12 AM

Interesting... if a lot of rancidity is undetectable, what are the implications for buying fresh oily fresh (such as mackerel)? Is it crucial to get fish that is as fresh as possible (e.g. caught a few hours previously) and eat it asap, in other words applying the same idea as when eating nuts?

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on February 26, 2010
at 10:00 PM

I couldn't find from your sources where it is stated that rancidity is not detectable.

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2 Answers

best answer

5
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 26, 2010
at 06:56 PM

It seems to be mostly undetectable to the human tongue, except in the worst cases. I wrote a post about it. Fresh nuts taste better to me, but the average grocery store probably-rancid nut tastes fine.

With whole foods like fish it is easier, but I do worry about canned fish myself as I eat it often. I looked up studies on the subject, but there weren't many. With a refined oil it's harder to detect rancidity by taste. And some people like the taste From "Consumer acceptance of canola oils during temperature-accelerated storage" about canola oil "Anecdotal evidence that people like the taste of some oxidized lipids has raised concern "

The info about rancidity and taste is unfortunately in Oxidized Fat in the Diet by Jeffrey S. Cohn which you have to pay to access. Back when I read it I had academic accessIt's also talked about in the excellent cookbook Fat by Jennifer McLagan when she talks about how refined oils are a bad choice. It's true. When my lard is bad it's pretty obvious, but my roommate's 2 year old canola oil doesn't smell like anything. One of my food science textbooks expressed concern at how some oil processors remove odors that would indicate rancidity to consumers.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 27, 2010
at 02:23 PM

With whole foods like fish it is easier, but I do worry about canned fish myself as I eat it often. I looked up studies on the subject, but there weren't many. With a refined oil it's harder to detect rancidity by taste. The info about rancidity and taste is unfortunately in Oxidized Fat in the Diet by Jeffrey S. Cohn which you have to pay to access. Back when I read it I had academic access.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 27, 2010
at 02:24 PM

It's also talked about in the excellent cookbook Fat by Jennifer McLagan when she talks about how refined oils are a bad choice. It's true. When my lard is bad it's pretty obvious, but my roommate's 2 year old canola oil doesn't smell like anything.

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on February 26, 2010
at 10:00 PM

I couldn't find from your sources where it is stated that rancidity is not detectable.

70d9359a2086e890a4c3bccb2ba8a8cb

(2254)

on February 27, 2010
at 11:12 AM

Interesting... if a lot of rancidity is undetectable, what are the implications for buying fresh oily fresh (such as mackerel)? Is it crucial to get fish that is as fresh as possible (e.g. caught a few hours previously) and eat it asap, in other words applying the same idea as when eating nuts?

5ebeec76e20738d0a17cd724d64b1e0f

(1922)

on March 02, 2010
at 01:18 AM

+1. Generally, by the time you can taste rancidity in oil, it is **very** rancid (peroxidized).

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 27, 2010
at 02:30 PM

From "Consumer acceptance of canola oils during temperature-accelerated storage" about canola oil "Anecdotal evidence that people like the taste of some oxidized lipids has raised concern "

2
6b73f0c4b971e2dde7147920e329fe7f

(2041)

on February 27, 2010
at 04:43 AM

If you want to familiarize yourself with the aroma (taste if you dare) of rancid oil, go buy a can of linseed oil (paint section) from the hardware store. That is industrial flaxseed oil that has undergone considerable heat and processing.

902a7cd8f96bbc917a04e92b1f49dbd7

(787)

on May 28, 2012
at 10:09 PM

Nowadays though, boiled linseed oil is just plain linseed oil with "Japan drier" - metal salts that greatly speed up the polymerization. Would it still smell the same?

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