Peanut oil is a pale yellow oil pressed from peanuts, which contain between 40 and 50 percent oil. Most peanut oil comes from a specific variety of the peanut plant (Arachis hypogaea) that has been bred to produce a healthier oil. Peanut oil was first produced in the early 1900s in the United States. Today, most of the peanuts that are grown in the United States are eaten rather than turned into peanut oil. However, in other areas of the world such as Africa and Asia peanut oil is especially popular. India and China, the two countries that produce the most peanuts in the world, use 80 to 90 percent of their crops to make peanut oil.
Just like the sunflowers used to make sunflower oil, the peanut plant has been genetically bred until its peanuts produce an oil with a higher level of monounsaturated fatty acids. This made the oil healthier because monounsaturated fatty acids have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. The oil also has a longer shelf life because it contained a smaller amount polyunsaturated fatty acids that are prone to oxidation. The peanut oil made from these plants contains about 45% monounsaturated fatty acids, 38% polyunsaturated fatty acids, and 17% saturated fatty acids. One newer notable variety developed several years ago in Florida is called “SunOleic 97R”. This variety has over 80% monounsaturated fatty acids, making it comparable to olive oil and sunflower oil.
Peanut oil can be found in most well stocked grocery stores, however it generally costs a bit more than regular vegetable oil. It will keep in a dark cupboard for a half year to a year. The oil has a very mild smell and taste similar to peanuts. One of the major benefits of peanut oil is that it has a high smoke point of over 450 ° F. Cooks often use peanut oil when cooking foods at a very high temperature, such as deep frying and stir-frying. It is often used in salad dressings, marinades, and baked goods. Peanut oil can also be found in massage oils and soaps.
Surprisingly, those with peanut allergies may be able to eat peanut oil without a reaction. Research has indicated that the crude form of the oil may pose a mild risk and should be avoided. However, the refined version used in most restaurants and sold in grocery stores is actually thought to be safe. This is because the refining process removes the proteins in peanuts that cause the allergic response. To be on the safe side, doctors stress that those people with severe peanut allergies should avoid peanut oil and all other products with peanuts.
BlueDragon adds: "re peanut oil: It's usually called groundnut oil in UK, even thought we eat peanuts, and peanut butter ;)"