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Posted By: Joe Ames
Date: Thursday, May 11, 2000 at 3:49 p.m.
Animal fats show a greater variation than plant oils. Each animal tends to
produce a characteristic type of fat as the animal organism elaborates this
fat from non-fatty materials ingested. Animals can also ingest the oils and
fats of plants or other animals; if ingested in excess of the amount needed
for energy, there is an effect on the characteristics of the stored fat;
thus. swine fed on grain and forage materials such as alfalfa store a harder
fat than swine fed a diet containing a large percentage of peanuts or other
oily material of low melting point, a factor important in preparing animals
for marketing. A more valuable meat product is produced if the animal is
fattened or finished on a feed formula producing a harder fat, generally
considered more valuable and useful in cooking. Olive oil, an exception, has
important flavor characteristics as a salad oil and cooking fat, commanding
a higher price than most of the hard fats.
Natural fats are not toxic; however, many degradation products of fats by
auto-oxidation, rancidity, thermal decomposition, or pyrolysis, are
suspected of being toxic, of destroying the nutritive value of the fats, and
rendering them less palatable. Degradation products of fat are less
desirable as food than original fats. This is important in cookery. Some
studies indicate that overheated fats may actually develop carcinogenic
properties with toxicity, as indicated by the inhibition of growth and
re-production in test animals. Maintaining fat at a temperature below the
point of degradation and at the lowest possible temperature consistent with
proper cooking will minimize these effects.
All natural animal and most crudely processed plant fats have some intrinsic
moisture, which accounts for comparatively rapid ranicidification (by
hydrolysis or oxidation) under ordinary conditions. Hydrogenated fats, e.g.,
margarine and refined plant oils are normally free of moisture and “keep”
for long periods. Both natural and refined fats remain whole-some for longer
(than ordinary) periods if refrigerated. Elevated temperatures
(temperature-time) progressively decompose fats.
Each fat or mixture of fats has specific properties, a knowledge of which is
essential for proper use. In wet cookery, individual differences between
fats may be only barely perceptible; in dry cookery especially frying, the
differences are marked. Small quantities of beef or mutton fat in stocks may
not he distinguishable, but minute quantities of either, fried, are easily
recognized, sometimes to the point of rejection.
Fats have different flavors, tastes, and smells; the difference in physical
characteristics is not generally understood. Knowledgeable cooks use
different animal and plant fats in specific food processing.
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