What is Sesame Oil?
Sesame oil is an aromatic and flavorful cooking oil made from sesame seeds. It has been used by many different cultures for centuries and is one of the oldest culinary oils in the world. The flavor of sesame oil varies depending on the type, but it typically has a nutty, earthy, and slightly sweet taste.
The oil is pale yellow or light brown in color and is extracted from sesame seeds using one of two methods: cold-pressing or expeller-pressing. The cold-pressing method uses mechanical pressure to extract the oil, while the expeller-pressing method uses heat. Cold-pressed sesame oil is said to be more flavor-rich than the expeller-pressed variety.
In addition to its culinary uses, sesame oil has long been used medicinally. Traditionally, it has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines to treat various ailments, such as headaches, arthritis, and baldness. Today, sesame oil is gaining popularity as an ingredient in beauty products, offering healing and protective properties for the skin.
Health Benefits of Sesame Oil
Sesame oil is a nutrient-dense food rich in beneficial plant compounds and vitamins. It’s packed with antioxidants, which protect the body from oxidative stress caused by free radicals, and essential nutrients such as vitamins A, E, and K.
Sesame oil is high in both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can reduce bad cholesterol levels and thereby lower your risk of heart disease. Since it contains omega-6 fatty acids, it can also help reduce inflammation throughout the body.
In addition, some studies suggest that sesame oil may improve diabetes symptoms by lowering blood sugar levels, reducing insulin resistance, and improving triglyceride levels. Some studies have also linked sesame oil to improved nerve health, brain development, and lower risk of stroke.
Finally, sesame oil is considered a good source of antioxidants, which can protect cells from damage and help reduce the chances of developing certain cancers.
How to Use Sesame Oil
There are many different ways to use sesame oil in cooking. It is often used in Asian cooking as a flavor enhancer or as a component of sauces, marinades, and stir-fries. One of the most popular uses is to make tahini (a paste made from sesame seeds).
Sesame oil is also used as a finishing oil for dishes like salads, grilled meats, and grilled vegetables. The nutty, earthy flavor of sesame oil adds a wonderful depth to many recipes. It is also often used in dressings and dips.
When using sesame oil, it’s important to remember that it has a relatively low smoke point. The smoke point is the temperature at which an oil begins to smoke and oxidize, giving it an off flavor. As a result, sesame oil is not an ideal choice for high-heat cooking such as deep-frying.
It’s best to store sesame oil in a cool, dark place and to use it within a few months of purchase. You can also refrigerate the oil to extend its shelf life.
Sesame oil is a flavorful and nutrient-rich cooking oil with many potential health benefits. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is packed with antioxidants and essential vitamins. It can be used in a variety of dishes to add nutritious flavor, and it can also be used topically as a healing and protective ingredient in beauty products.
Sesame oil has a range of uses in the kitchen, and is an integral part of many dishes around the globe. Smoky and nutty in flavour, sesame oil is one of the most popular seed oils in the world. Its culinary reputation is preceded by its rich cultural status across Asia and beyond. In this article, we’ll take a detailed, scientific look at the journey from sesame seed to a diner’s plate, where we’ll look at the plant’s botanical makeup, its production methods, and the culinary science of sesame oil.
The Sesame plant (Sesamum indicum) is an annual flowering plant that belongs to the Pedaliacae family. It grows best in the tropics and sub-tropics, particularly in India, China, and tropical Africa. The edible parts of the plant are the slender seeds, which are protected inside the capsule known as a ‘fruit’.
The oil-rich seeds range in colour from reddish-brown, to charcoal-black when fully ripe. These are the seeds we use to grow and produce sesame oil — either by cold-pressing, or by employing more technical extraction processes.
The most popular method of cold-pressing sesame oil is to use a traditional millstone with a base of coco seed cake and a back pressure of 5-6 atmospheres. The traditional approach maintains the fragrance and flavour of sesame oil, as well as its health benefits, but produces only a small amount of oil and is time consuming.
This method is usually used for domestic sesame oil production as it’s time-consuming and labour-intensive. The raw sesame is heated to between 110-120°C before being fed into the millstone. This helps to promote oil flow and reduce friction during the extraction process.
The oil-rich sesame seeds are cleaned and separated from dust or foreign particles before being processed. Next, the seed is cracked, hulled and coarsely ground.
The resulting product is then separated using a dry sieving and pulverized product washed with a solvent liquid. This helps to remove the germs and spores. After drying and de-hulling, the seeds are ready for oil extraction.
Modern production processes use either a solvent-based or a hydraulic press to extract the oil. In solvent extraction, the seeds are dried and soaked in lye or caustic soda before being pressed. This helps to remove most of the oil content and the remaining residue is filtered through nitrogen.
In the hydraulic press method, the raw seeds are fed into a screw press that squeezes out the oil. This process is carried out at cold temperatures, as heat can damage the oil and its flavour. The oil that is collected is treated with a decolourant to reduce the colour and acidity of the oil. This results in a clearer and lighter coloured oil, which is a key characteristic of sesame oil.
Given its botanical make-up, sesame oil is highly nutritious, providing essential fatty acids and vitamins that improve the health of skin, hair, and most importantly the heart. It contains polyunsaturated (omega-9) and monounsaturated (omega-6) fatty acids, including oleic acid and linoleic acid. It is also rich in antioxidants like polyphenols, which help to fight free radicals in the body and reduce the risk of diseases like cancer.
The presence of vitamin E in sesame oil helps to protect the skin from damage. It is also rich in copper, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Copper promotes the formation of collagen, which helps to keep skin healthy and prevent aging. While calcium and magnesium work together to maintain strong bones and teeth.
Sesame Oil in the Kitchen
Sesame oil has a host of uses in the kitchen. As a cooking oil, it has a high smoke point, making it an ideal choice for stir-frying. It adds a rich and nutty flavour to food, imbuing it with a distinct sesame aroma.
It has a multitude of applications in salads, dressings, dips, and marinades. These might include hummus and pesto dishes as well as traditional Asian dishes such as soy-miso dressings.
Apart from its versatile culinary uses, sesame oil is also used as a flavouring agent in a range of desserts such as ice cream, puddings and cakes.
Sesame oil has a long and rich history in many diverse cultures, where it is valued for its flavour, medicinal and health benefits. As a cooking ingredient, too, it is unrivalled. With its versatility and range of uses, sesame oil holds a special place in the kitchen and is sure to remain a staple for years to come.
The journey from sesame seed to dinner plate is scientifically advanced and technologically driven. From harvesting and cleaning, to oil extraction and treatment, every step of the process is carefully managed to ensure quality and taste. From its ancient roots to its current prominence, sesame oil continues to be a favourite of chefs and diners alike.
|Vitamin E||0.0014 grams|
|Vitamin K||0.0136 mg|
|Vitamin B4||0.2 mg|
|Total Sugars||0 ug||
|Palmitic acid (16:0)||8.9 grams||
|Stearic acid (18:0)||4.8 grams||
|Total Saturated fatty acids:||13.7 g|
|Oleic acid (18:1)||39.3 grams||
|Palmitoleic acid (16:1)||0.2 grams||
|Gadoleic acid (20:1)||0.2 grams||
|Total Monounsaturated fatty acids:||39.7 g|
|Linolenic acid (18:3)||0.3 grams||
|Linoleic acid (18:2)||41.3 grams||
|Total Polyunsaturated fatty acids:||41.6 g|
|Total Sterols:||0.87 g|