Originally developed as an alternative to butter, margarine is vegetable fat that is processed into a spread that can be used in just about every recipe or application that calls for butter. Whether formed into sticks or processed into a soft spread that can be taken from the refrigerator to the table, margarine is available in a number of supermarkets, and is often priced at a very affordable rate. More recently, margarine sprays are also available. Generally, margarine is produced with a combination of different types of vegetable oils. Some brands tend to use soybean oil, whiles other favour corn oil. As part of the preparation process, the oil undergoes hydrogenation. The addition of more molecules of hydrogen to the mixture helps to achieve the solid texture required to assemble it like a block of butter. Margarine is generally more spreadable than butter, and is considered to be healthier than butter due to the lower fat content. Margarine has morphed into a health spread these days, and often includes added nutrients on the advice of health experts and nutritionists.
How to Select
• Margarine is readily available in the market today, and various versions are available to suit virtually every special need and taste.
• These products vary in oil content as well as form.
• Regular margarine products are higher in oil and are commonly used for baking and cooking.
• Reduced-fat, low-fat and fat-free products are most often used for spreading and topping.
• Margarine products are now available in sticks, tubs, and squeeze and spray forms to serve various purposes and consumer needs. Hence, acquire as desired.
• In cooking, margarine is often employed as an ingredient in the making of pie crusts, cakes, casseroles, and many desserts.
• Margarine spread is often found at the breakfast table, providing a quick and tasty addition to toast, hot biscuits and muffins.
• Melted margarine also works well as an additive to baked potatoes and a topping on cooked green vegetables.
• At snack time, melted margarine is an excellent topping for freshly-popped popcorn.
• Margarine can be used in all recipes where butter is specified. The results will meet expectations, especially where baking is concerned.
• However, if margarine is labelled as "light", "lower fat", "reduced fat", "reduced calorie/diet" or "fat-free", it might not work very well for baking. The higher the oil content, the more fat there is in the product. While fat does add calories, it contributes texture and browning properties to foods. The lower the oil content, the less fat there is in the product. This is critical to know when sautéing or baking, since products with the lower amount of fat do not perform in the same way as regular margarine.
How to Store
• To store margarine, leave it in its original package or keep it in a butter dish or other container.
• Store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
• One must be mindful that the process of hydrogenation converts some of the unsaturated fats in the oils to saturated fats, which could be disadvantageous.
• Currently, there are types of margarine on the market today that claim to have less than half the usual level of unsaturated fat in the product, without compromising the taste.
• A healthy diet calls for the usage of margarine spreads, rather than butter, as this reduces the blood cholesterol. Margarines enriched with plants are also an ideal choice for keeping the cholesterol levels low.
• Margarine with reduced saturated fats, high poly unsaturated fats and less than 1% trans-fats are preferred. This is identified by reading food labels.