Truffles are a well-known luxury ingredient in different western cuisines. People have many nicknames for these fungi, such as "the diamond in the kitchen" due to its high price. Truffles are very rare as they can only grow in particular conditions, which explains why it's one of the most highly-priced ingredients in the world today. This case led to the creation of truffle oils that could make a dish smell and taste like truffles without putting actual truffles in it.
With truffle oil, everyone finally had a chance of experiencing truffles without having to dine in high-end restaurants. The demand for truffle oil got so big that it created a 124 million dollar industry in the US market alone. However, the sad thing is that most of these products are fake in the sense that these products used no actual truffles to create them. Most of these products only mimic truffles using different chemicals that could potentially have harmful effects on your body.
In this article, we will explore the different ways you can distinguish a fake truffle oil from a genuine one, as well as the inherent differences between actual truffles and truffle oil. Read further below to know more.
How do you spot a fake truffle oil product ?
As a consumer, it is your right to get the value for what you've paid. However, many fake truffle oil companies tend to mislead their customers into thinking that whatever they brought from them is genuine. Although many consumers filed class-action lawsuits to these companies, it is better to educate yourself to avoid getting tricked in the first place. In that regard, the following are some of the "red flags" you should look out for when buying truffle oil.
Carefully check the label.
In most cases, you can quickly identify fake truffle oil or even other truffle-infused products from a genuine one by merely checking the label and the list of ingredients. Chemically-made truffle oil will most likely add whatever chemicals they've used. They can also include "truffle aroma" or "truffle flavoring," which is immediately a dead giveaway. As long as it does not explicitly contain the word "truffle" alone, you're most likely looking at a fake truffle oil product.
There are no actual truffle bits in the product.
If, for some reason, you cannot figure it out from the label alone, you can visually inspect it instead. High-end genuine truffle oils include actual truffle bits inside their products, which you can see at the bottom of the bottle. But to be safe, you should still check the label as well.
The taste is not right.
If you've never tried actual truffles before, this might not prove helpful at all. However, if you did, you can quickly tell if a dish used natural truffle oil or not. Fake truffle oils more or less only contain a synthetic version of the chemical called 2,4-dithiapentane, which is just one of the many chemicals that a real truffle has.
Truffle vs. Truffle Oils
Of course, although a genuine truffle oil can make a dish taste and smell like there are actual truffles in it, it can never beat the original. If not, truffles would not be as in demand as they are in the global market. You can refer to truffle oils as a watered-down version of truffles in the simplest term. In most cases, they only offer a single dimension in terms of taste and aroma compared to the multiple layers that a real truffle gives. Many chefs worldwide even call truffle oils an "abomination" that mislead the general public into what truffles taste and smell.
Truffles are healthier than truffle oil.
Truffle is not known for its health benefits, but surprisingly enough, it has a few. In many parts of Africa and the Middle East, they treat eye and skin conditions using truffles. It can also lower cholesterol levels and control your blood pressure. However, since consumption of truffles can be considered minimal, these effects are not so apparent.
On the other hand, consuming any kinds of truffle oil, including genuine ones, can be unhealthy. In the case of fake truffle oils, the makers pack them with chemicals that could cause cancer. Furthermore, according to some studies, the olive oil base used in synthetic and genuine truffle oil can constrict blood vessels, leading to heart problems.