Peanut oil, which may be called groundnut oil in the UK, is a highly desirable oil for deep-frying. It is made from the legumes called peanuts, and it is known for its high smoke point, the point at which the oil begins to give off smoke and start to burn. Refined oil, the type that people are most likely to buy in a grocery store, has a smoke point of 450°F (232.22°C). Other, comparable oils in this respect include ghee, sesame oil, refined safflower oil, extra light olive oil, and most versions of canola oil.
People can find peanut oil used quite a bit in the US, especially to fry French fries or make fried chicken, and most experts on deep frying turkey recommend it as the oil of choice. It also has many applications in Asian cooking. Authentic Asian cooking, especially in places like China, uses an oil that is less refined, retaining a little bit more of the protein of the peanut and producing a stronger flavor. Most US versions, unless they are sold as organic, tend to filter out much of the taste of the peanuts, and all of its protein.
This is good news for people who suffer from peanut allergies. In most cases, food prepared in filtered peanut oil does not provoke an allergic response, because the allergy to peanuts tends to be to proteins contained in them. People who have a strong allergic response to peanuts should check with a medical professional first, but in general, they may not have an allergic reaction to the oil. People who fry things in organic oil, or who are visiting a country that uses a less refined version, may have an allergic reaction, however.
When most people think of oils used in cooking, they want to know the calorie content and composition of the oil. A tablespoon (approximately 14.7 ml) of peanut oil has just under 120 calories. This amount provides 21% of the daily recommended intake of total fats, has 2.28 grams of saturated fat, 4.32 grams of polyunsaturated fat, and 6.24 grams of monounsaturated fat. The saturated fat in this serving size counts for 11% of the US Daily Value of saturated fat intake.
From a nutritional standpoint, many oils are considered superior to peanut, but this variety remains a popular choice. For people who are looking for a good substitute, the smoke points of canola and extra light olive oil are comparable, and from a health perspective they both are much higher in monounsaturated fat. There are a few other oils that make worthy substitutes.
Cooks who use this oil sparingly, especially unfiltered or organic types, can often get some of the rich taste of peanuts that is missing from other oils. In salad dressing, for instance, it can add an extra flavor. Though all oils should be used with caution, peanut oil is just as worthy as some, and better than others, and many love its taste and its ability to produce terrific fried foods.