Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Sometime in the early 90s, a chef I worked for introduced me to infused oils for cooking and finishing plates. This was radically different from the stodgy “country club cooking” that dominated that time—plus, making the oils took more effort/time than you’d think. For example, a vanilla version required 14 days of steeping beans in oil before use; herb oils took three to four days.

As I progressed through my career and worked for various chefs, I would adapt my herb-infused oil technique to each chef’s standards, mostly built upon beliefs, anecdotes, and a little trial-and-error (we didn’t have the internet resources we do now). It ran the gamut: Infuse herbs in hot oil; no, put the oil in the freezer for two hours before blending; use raw herbs; no, use blanched herbs—wait, no, use blanched herbs, but thoroughly dry them…infusing oils was a dark art. But like the immersion circulator, rotovap (a.k.a. a rotary evaporator used to distill individual components from food items—cue the molecular gastronomy), or any number of precision temperature control appliances, borrowing existing tech from other industries has stabilized, if not improved, the herb-infusion game.

Since cooking involves considerable multitasking, I’m always looking for tools that will free my hands and attention span without suffering poor results as the tradeoff. When researching oil infusion systems, I found the Lēvo Lux. I was impressed that it wasn’t as single-purpose as many of its contemporaries and took the multi-method oil infusion puzzle off the table.

Good to Know

What Is an Oil Infuser?

Oil infusers have been gaining popularity in home and commercial kitchens because they can replicate results without running through the matrix of options I previously mentioned. Just insert herbs or spices, add a liquid, set the time and temperature, and walk away for a while. The infuser uses precise times and temperatures to optimize your infusion while sequestering your herbs in a strainer basket, extracting the desirable elements, and leaving other components, like chlorophyll, which muddy the oil’s flavor, behind.

What’s the Best Oil Infuser?

I really like the Lēvo Lux— it’s a versatile machine that removes the variation and guesswork from infusing foods. To use it, place fresh herbs in the hopper (located inside of the fluid reservoir), add the oil of your choice (be it olive, butter, coconut, or something neutral like grape seed), and select the time and temperature on the touchscreen control panel to start the infusion cycle. Lēvo provides an online infusion calculator to help minimize any guesswork. The Lēvo Lux applies the necessary temperature and times the process. Then, once infused, place a storage container under the dispensing spout, select dispense from the touchscreen menu (they have options for thin and thick liquids), and the Lux delivers your filtered oil or other liquid. 

Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Another feature worth trying is the dry setting. The machine can actually dry herbs for you and improve the shelf-life of your oil by removing water (which can hasten rancidification). This drying also removes any strong chlorophyll taste that can overwhelm your palette. Some herbs have more chlorophyll than others; parsley is a particularly strong offender in that aspect, and the Luxe leaves you with its inherent grassy flavor but not the “green” taste. The one downside is that your oil might not have that vibrant green shade anymore, but it will last longer. The Levo Luxe also has settings for infusing and dispensing water-based liquids, like vinegar or dairy (pre-infuse your milk with herbs for ice cream?), as well as options for sweet liquids such as honey (with Tellicherry peppercorns?) or maple syrup.

The Levo Luxe Is Customizable and Easy to Use and Clean

Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

What’s also cool about the Levo Luxe is that you can customize your time and temperature settings for the extraction of your liking—and quickly replicate your results on the next run. The herb hopper has a 1/2 cup capacity, and the liquid reservoir holds one pint of liquid. The removable reservoir has a ceramic coating, especially handy for cleaning sticky liquids like honey. On the whole, the unit is very easy to clean, as all the components are machine-washable. 

While there’s considerable competition in the oil-infuser field now, I like the Lēvo for its ease of use, versatility, and capacity. It’s suitable for making small-scale (as well as restaurant-sized, if you’re looking for big quantities) batches of infused liquids and adds a bit of fun to your cooking routine.

The Verdict

Pros

Customizable Intuitive touchscreen controlsAlso capable of infusing water-based liquidsEasy to clean

Cons

PriceyAbout the size of a coffee maker, so it’ll eat up countertop space

Key Specs

Dimensions: 7 x 8 x 13 inchesCare instructions: Dishwasher-safe partsWarranty: 1 year

FAQs

How does an oil infuser work?

An oil infuser holds the liquid and the herb you’re infusing at a precise temperature for a pre-determined time. This precision increases the infusion’s strength, minimizes variation between batches, and removes chances of burning, like if you left a pot of oil on a stove burner and forgot about it.

What’s the best oil infuser?

While you can use an immersion circulator like the Anova Precision Sous Vide 3.0 to infuse oil, we like the Lēvo Lux for its versatility, ease of use, and consistent results.

What can you make with an oil infuser?

One of the great things about infusers like the Lēvo Lux is that you’re not limited to simply oil-based infusions. That’s not to say that oil isn’t a great medium for flavor, like fresh herbs (like basil, chervil, lavender, or cilantro) or spices like black peppercorns, cinnamon, or coriander. But you can also directly infuse herbs and spices into dairy (like for makrut lime butter or lavender-peppercorn ice cream), vinegar, or other sticky liquids like honey. Want to infuse guajillo chiles into maple syrup? Go right ahead. The beauty of the infuser is the precise heat and time control, which gives you maximum extraction and minimizes chances of burning, especially when it comes to sweet items like honey.

Why We’re the Experts 

Greg Baker is a former chef and James Beard Award Semi-Finalist.He has written a few articles for Serious Eats, including a review of the Anova Precision Cooker 3.0.

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