Peanut oil is the oil produced as a result of the pressing or refinement of the peanut. It is occasionally called groundnut oil and possesses a smell and taste similar to the peanut. There are three main types of peanut oil produced and sold on the market today – the refined peanut oil, the pure peanut oil and the gourmet peanut oil.
Types of peanut oil
- The refined peanut oil is produced by going through a series of steps which removes scent, color and other impurities contained in it. This type of peanut oil is typically not recommended as it loses most of its nutrients. The upside of the refined peanut oil is that people with peanut allergies can safely consume them because the peanut allergen in it has been removed during the refining process. Most restaurants prefer to use this because it removes the possibility of any allergic reactions from occurring.
- The pure peanut oil is oil that has not been processed in any way and comes directly from the peanut.
- The gourmet peanut oil is considered a premium oil that has been slightly altered to provide the most appealing taste and scent. It is not refined or processed but has been mildly “modified” by a variety of methods, including roasting. It is generally the tastiest and most beneficial oil amongst the other types of peanut oil for use as a cooking oil, as it still retains most of its nutrients and minerals.
Peanut oil is a popular cooking oil, especially in Asian countries where it is an integral part of many Asian cuisines. The nutty flavor and taste of the oil is often used to counteract spicy ingredients like chilies and thus allows chefs to fine-tune the taste of the food. In other countries, peanut oil is the main oil used in most fast food restaurants, particularly to fry french fries and chicken because of its ability to operate at high temperatures. Besides that, fast food restaurants prefer to use the peanut oil because it can be reused many times without compromising flavor or quality of the food. It also slightly gives the food an appealing, nutty taste.
People who are allergic to peanuts should always avoid coming in contact with or consuming unrefined peanut oil. Doing so may result in anaphylaxis or other severe adverse reactions. In more moderate situations, a reaction can cause irritation, swelling and hives. Naturally, anyone with a peanut allergy must be cautious around any products containing peanuts or food that has been cooked with unrefined peanut oil. Research has shown that properly refined peanut oil poses no threat to those with peanut oil allergies and can be safely used. However, because the level of refinement can be unclear, it is recommended for those with peanut allergies to avoid foods cooked with the oil altogether.
Peanut Oil as Biofuel
Peanut oil became one of the earliest examples of a biofuel when the Otto Company presented it as an alternative fuel for the diesel engine in 1900. It did not, however, become a major player until World War II when many governments and scientists began looking into its viability as an alternative fuel source.
As fuel costs have risen and fossil fuels become depleted, peanut oil has once again come under scrutiny. Although it delivers more fuel per litre than other common biofuels like soy oil, peanut oil is more costly, making it a less economically viable solution as a source for biofuel.
In an attempt to provide a solution for this problem, tests are currently being conducted to grow peanuts that are intended only for the production of biodiesel. These non-edible peanuts would ideally be higher in oil content than their edible counterparts, making them suitable for this purpose.
Peanut oil burns cleaner than other forms of diesel and has a “cleaning” effect on the engines it runs in. Finding viable sources of biofuel could significantly help bridge the gap between our finite fossil resource and our growing need for more energy, and the peanut oil might just be it.
It is unclear whether or not the new strains of peanuts will help to alleviate the pressure of increased fuel and energy demand. Whether or not peanut oil becomes this solution, there is no doubt that peanut oil will continue to have a powerful presence in our lives. It continues to rise in popularity today for its capable frying ability and healthy profile and can be found in almost all food served by fast-food chains.