What is Soybean Oil?
Soybean oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of the soybean . It is one of the most widely consumed cooking oils. Soybean oil is the world’s second largest source of vegetable oil and is around 90 percent of all U.S. oilseed production. it is popular for its high smoke point and low cost.
Soybean oil has no cholesterol or saturated fat, but it is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids . Soybean oil is used to make the popular emulsifier lecithin. Fully hydrogenated soybean oil is in high demanded as well, as a hard oil with no trans fat.
The first record of soybean dates back to the 11th century in China as one of five main plant foods. It began being exported as a fertilizer. Soybeans spread to Europe in the 1700s and the first U.S. crop surfaced in 1829. It was used for soy sauce, by Civil War soldiers to substitute scarce coffee, and by farmers as a forage crop.
It wasn’t until George Washington Carver began studying the soybean that it was used for it’s valuable protein and oil. During WWII, the U.S. turned to soybean for their oil supply, as exported sources were cut. It grew in popularity from there, helped by it’s low cost, and has become one of the most used oil supplies in U.S. baking.
Although soybean oil can be produced mechanically with hydraulic presses, the process is expensive with low returns of the product. The most common commercial production today is solvent extraction. Soybeans are cleaned, dried, and then dehulled before being immersed in a solvent–usually hexane, which is then evaporated.
Soybean oil commonly comes in partially or fully hydrogenated form, to increase shelf life or lower its high levels of linoleic acid from 8 percent to 3 percent. This also makes it more stable as a frying oil.
In efforts to eliminate trans fat in foods, soybean growers have been reducing the plant’s saturated fats, to create a higher oleic content than linoleic content in the bean itself.
Soybean oil has a clean natural taste and enhances natural flavors in products. Soybean oil mixes well with other fats and oils, making it a good ingredient for baked goods. Soybean oil is available with OSI stability levels from 7 to 60 hours. It also works well as a an emulsifying agent, compared to other vegetable oils.
Fully hydrogenated soybean oil has no trans fat, but instead converts it 100 percent to stearic acid. It is extremely popular as a hard fat for bakery shortenings.
Research has found the use of stearidonic acid soybean oil improved functional and sensory attributes in bagels, breakfast bars, pastries, cookies, icings, and chocolate coatings.