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 have become an important part of the food landscape in many nations around the world. Generally, margarine is produced with a combination of different types of vegetable oils. Some brands tend to use soybean oil, whiles other favor 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 if margarine is to resemble the look and texture of a butter spread. Generally more easily spread than many forms of butter, margarine was first touted to be a healthy alternative to the higher content of fat found in fresh butter. Margarines have changed these days, due to the consumer demands and recommendations from health professional organizations
How to Select
Margarine products are available today 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.
· The range of uses for margarine runs a wide gamut.
· 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 topper for freshly popped popcorn.
· Margarine can be used in all recipes where margarine or butter is specified. The results will meet expectations, especially where baking is concerned. However, if margarine is labeled "light", "lower fat", "reduced fat", "reduced calorie/diet" or "fat-free", see the guidelines below before cooking and baking.
· Keep in mind this "rule of thumb" when selecting margarine for cooking or 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 container. Store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
· One of the drawbacks is that the process of hydrogenation converts some of the unsaturated fats in the oils to saturated fats.
· 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 at a low profile.
· Margarine with reduced saturated fats, high poly unsaturated fats and less than 1% trans fats are preferred. This is identified by reading food labels.