Palm oil is derived from the flesh of the fruit of the oil palm species Elaeis guineensis. In its virgin form, the oil is bright orange-red due to the high content of carotene. Palm oil is Nature’s gift to Malaysia, and Malaysia’s to the world.
Palm oil is semi-solid at room temperature; a characteristic brought about by its approximately 50 percent saturation level. Palm oil (and its products) has good resistance to oxidation and heat at prolonged elevated temperatures; hence, making palm oil an ideal ingredient in frying oil blends. Manufacturers and end-users around the world incorporate high percentages of palm oil in their frying oil blends for both performance and economic reasons.
The oil palm (Elaeisguineensisjaq.) starts bearing fruit after 21⁄2 to 3 years of field planting. It keeps producing fruit for its entire economic lifespan of 25-30 years. This remarkable agronomic characteristic allows the oil palm to provide a consistent supply of vegetable oil to meet ever-increasing global demand.
The oil palm grows in tropical regions. Originally found in West Africa, it is now mainly cultivated in Indonesia and Malaysia, the top palm oil-producing countries.
The oil palm fruit is unique in that it produces two different kinds of oil – palm oil from its mesocarp (flesh) and palm kernel oil from its kernel (seed). Both are edible oils but with very different chemical compositions, physical properties and applications. Each fruit contains 30-35% oil. This comprises 90% palm oil and 10% palm kernel oil.
Malaysian Palm Oil
Like olive oil, palm oil is fruit oil. It contains an equal proportion of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. It is particularly rich in saturated palmitic acid (44%), with a substantial amount of monounsaturated oleic acid (40%), and a smaller amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids (10%). Coupled with Nature’s gift of a high Vitamin E content, the oil is naturally very stable.
Palm oil is currently consumed in over 150 countries.
Palm olein, palm stearin and super palm olein
Palm oil is semi-solid at room temperature (20°C). The liquid portion can be physically separated from the solid portion by fractionation. The liquid portion is called palm olein; this is bottled and sold as cooking oil. The solid fat portion is called palm stearin and is used to formulate margarine, shortening and vegetable ghee that is free of trans fats. Sometimes, the palm olein is further fractionated to a more liquid fraction called super palm olein. It can withstand a lower temperature than palm olein before it clouds or solidifies.