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As a member of Slimming World, I use Fry Light Olive Oil spray quite a lot, and so, on a recent trip to the supermarket, I was intrigued to find a new variety displayed next to it on the shelf. It was advertised as “Fry Light Stir-Fry Spray Oil with Oriental Seasoning”, and as we do a fair bit of stir fry, I decided to give it a try.
PACKAGING & PRICE
The oil comes in a tall, predominantly black and yellow plastic 250ml bottle with a spray pump on top which is covered by a clear plastic lid emblazoned with “The Only 1 Cal Spray”. It is busily decorated with vaguely oriental symbols and fonts, which should make it easy to spot on the shelf. The product is suitable for vegetarians (it is both Vegan and Vegetarian Society approved and bears both marks on the labelling), and is wheat and MSG free and has no cholesterol. It does not need to be refrigerated and can be used up to six months after opening. I picked mine up at Tesco for £1.97 (on sale from its normal RRP of £2.39).
A BIT ABOUT THE FRY LIGHT BRAND
Fry Light is a great boon for those who want to cut down on their oil and fat intake. Most (if not all of their brands – including Salad Light) are about one calorie per spray, and for guidance, about five sprays will coat a medium sized frying pan. Its very versatile and I have used Fry Light extensively for just about everything I used to use oil and butter for (there is a Butter flavoured spray, as well as a Sunflower Oil variety). For example, I use it to fry onions, scramble eggs, shallow fry sausages and to spray on potatoes to be baked or roasted in the oven. I generally find it acceptable for most purposes, but if you are looking for real flavour – something only quality extra virgin olive oil can deliver – Fry Light isn’t going to cut the mustard.
A BIT ABOUT STIR-FRYING
Stir-frying doesn’t need a great deal of oil, so I was dubious about the benefits of a spray oil like this one. Normally, I would pour about a teaspoon of sesame oil into a heavy based wok, and then, with the corner of a paper kitchen towel, coat the entire surface area of the wok with a thin film of oil. That’s all that’s really needed. I also add Chinese spices when cooking – such as soy sauce, ginger, sesame, garlic and five spice. The alleged benefit of this spray is that the seasoning is already in the oil, so you don’t need to add anything extra. However, what concerned me (after I bought it but before I used it) is that for stir fry to be successful, you need to heat the oil until the pan is starting to smoke a little. If you do this with an oil that has flavouring already added, you risk burning the spices. It turns out I needn’t have worried about it for reasons that will become obvious.
GIVING IT A TRY
Given my satisfaction with other Fry Light products, I was cautiously optimistic. I decided to use it to make a chicken stir fry with yellow peppers and cashew nuts, using fresh chicken breast. I sliced the chicken into thin strips and the pepper into square chunks. At this stage, I would also have thinly sliced a clove or two of garlic and a considerable amount of fresh ginger, to add to the oil shortly before putting in the chicken, followed quickly by the pepper (the nuts go in right at the end). However, as the label advised that spices had already been added, I left my soy sauce on standby and didn’t bother with ginger and garlic.
The instructions advise shaking the bottle well and then spraying the unheated wok. As suggested, five pumps were enough to coat it. The oil came out a brownish yellow colour (sort of like Dijon mustard) and once the wok heated up, it dispersed well enough. I added in the rest of the ingredients and cooked as usual, only adding soy sauce (as suggested on the label).
The instructions then tell you to spray the finished dish a few times and then mix at the end of the cooking. A few observations. Firstly, it didn’t smell right at any stage – not when it was sprayed on, not when it was heated, nor at the end when on the food. Secondly, there was only the vaguest hint of ginger and garlic seasoning, and whilst this may be down to personal preference, the bitter aftertaste certainly is not. I didn’t burn the food when cooking, but it still tasted unpleasantly like burnt toast.
Given the disappointing results and the apparent waste of a perfectly good pepper and chicken breast, I thought I should take a closer look at the ingredients. Although seasoning and spices are mentioned repeatedly, there is little evidence of it in the list of ingredients. The predominant component is Vegetable Oil (49%), followed by an unspecified amount of soy sauce, water and emulsifiers. A little further down the list, after the ominous sounding E570, is the generic “flavourings”. No wonder it was so insipid. Whatever the mystery flavourings were, they were a very poor substitute for real Chinese five spice, ginger, garlic and quality soy sauce.
An unfortunate waste of both time and money (even at the sale price), and a good reminder that the time invested in the use of real, fresh ingredients will reward you with real taste. The calorie savings in using this product as opposed to real sesame oil, sparingly used, is negligible compared to the massive sacrifice in taste. It seems to me that they have got the balance of this product completely wrong. The fact that the bottle itself can’t be usefully recycled rounds out the list of its completely un-redeeming features. the only reason its gets one star is because Ciao won't let me choose "none". Steer clear.
I've got the full fat version of this and I'm not impressed - the pump 'coughs' a load of oil out in one concentrated area, rather than the fine mist I was hoping for - sounds like the diet version fairs no better!
retireduser 14.06.2009 06:06
Will be avoiding this then! Great review.
suehome 10.06.2009 23:47
Sounds horrid, thanks for the heads up.........Sue