Pecan oil is the liquid fat extracted from the pecan nut. It’s a lightweight oil that is usually pale yellow yet translucent in color. But, don’t let its light color deceive you, as it’s only an indication that its flavor is milder than olive or avocado oil. Commonly used in culinary applications, pecan oil is rather noted for its luxurious nutty taste. Thus, it makes the perfect alternative for other cooking oils when you don’t want to overpower the meal’s natural taste. In addition, pecan oil also has a high smoking point (470ºF). Perhaps, it’s the second-highest, next to avocado oil.
Pecan is a nut native to the southern United States and northern Mexico. The tree is grown primarily in Georgia, Texas, and Mexico. Its earliest mention can be traced back to the 16th century among the Native American tribes. In fact, its name is of Algonquian origin and it means “hard-shelled nut” During the 17th and 18th centuries, pecan became popular among American colonists. Thanks to the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, for leading the first major distributions and marketing of pecans. Soon enough, the pecan industry was born and it has become a household favorite in America since then.
Pecan Oil Trivia
- Pecan is the state nut of Texas. And, it’s also represented in the state symbols of Alabama, Arkansas, California, and Oklahoma.
- Pecan oil has the highest antioxidant content among all the tree nut oils.
- Pecan oil makes a great and effective leather treatment. Now, you can freshen up your leathers just by applying a thin layer of pecan oil to their surface.
- Pecan oil makes a great liniment. So, if you suffer from achy muscles and joints, consider using pecan oil as a massage oil and let it do its magic.
Pecan Oil Buying Guide
It’s quite easier to purchase pecan oil compared to the other oils. They don’t have many grades or standard classifications like olive oil. Thus, here are some general tips to look out for when buying one:
- Check out how the product is packaged. Pecan oil should only come in glass bottles or opaque tins. Otherwise, PET or plastic bottles will diffuse the oxygen, giving the oil an unpleasant, rancid smell and taste.
- Check out the color of the container. Pecan oil should only come in dark containers as exposure to light will lose most of its flavor and aroma, and will eventually turn them rancid.
- Don’t be afraid to read the label. Even though it can give you a headache when you see something written in Italian, Spanish, or French, you can probably recognize “harvest” and “use-by” dates. The finest producers of olive oil are always proud of their harvest date and they often show this on the label. But, don’t confuse them from the “use-by” date, as it is usually 24 months from bottling. That being said, choose the freshest ones.
- Look for the country of origin. Manufacturers of high-quality pecan oil will proudly tag their bottles with their name and the country of origin.
- Check out the nutrition label and opt for the ones with the lowest acidity.
- As always, it’s best to buy from trusted retailers who know how to maintain the quality of their products.
Pecan Oil Production & Farming in Texas
Pecan is the only nut in Texas that is grown for commercial purposes. Not to mention that it is native to most of the state’s river valleys, where its deep, loose, and well-watered soil best suits the crop. As of the year 1984, the leading county producers were Hood, El Paso, Pecos, San Saba, Mills, Comanche, Wharton, and Gonzales.
Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:
Fortunately, almost all the pecan oils in the market do not contain additives and chemicals that are not good for health. However, even though pecan trees require little to no pesticide to grow, few growers still use chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents. In that case, it’s better to buy products that are organically certified.
The United States is the leading producer of pecan trees in the world, with Georgia being the leading state producer, followed by New Mexico, and Texas. With regards to the pecan oil market, the following are the key players: North America, Latin America, Western Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East.
Olive oils are commonly packaged in dark glass containers or bottles. However, you can also find them in tin cans, clear or colored plastic jars, containers, and PET bottles.
Enjoying Pecan Oil
Pecan oil is a heart-healthy yet versatile oil. It is commonly used as a cooking oil due to its high smoking point. Thus, you can drizzle it over vegetables prior to roasting, use it as a marinade for grilling meats, or just simply use it as an oil for stir-fries. On another note, pecan oil can also be consumed cold. You can add a teaspoon or two onto smoothies, drizzle over salads, cold soups, and hummus.
There are three major things to avoid when storing pecan oil: light, heat, and oxygen. Exposure to these factors will oxidize the oil and turn them rancid. Thus, keep your pecan oil in a dark, preferably glass container, and store it in a cool and dark place away from sunlight. Unopened pecan oil will definitely last for about 2 years. Upon opening, keep them in the refrigerator, where it could last for the next 6 months. While refrigeration will turn the oil to semi-solid, just let it sit on the counter for 15 to 20 minutes and your pecan oil will return to its liquid form. Despite this, it’s still best to follow its use-by date.
Make your own Pecan Oil:
Extracting oil from nuts can be rather tricky because they’re not as soft compared to fruits like olives or avocados. Still, there are three extraction methods that you can use but all of them require a bit of an investment. Cold pressing is the one that we’re going to do today, and we’re going to need a hydraulic press, which will produce the lowest yield yet highest quality pecan oil. The second method is through a screw expeller, which will require some heat and force. This method will produce a higher yield yet lower quality pecan oil. Lastly, the third method is extraction through the use of a solvent. This method requires high heat and a small amount of petroleum-based solvent to extract the oil. It’s the most common industrial method because it produces the highest yield among the three processes. However, it also produces the lowest quality pecan oil.
Pecans, as needed
- Grind the pecans into a fine paste using a food processor or blender.
- Transfer the paste into the metal cylinder of your hydraulic shop press. Put the fitted insert and place the cylinder into the press.
- Gently apply pressure on the press until it has pressed the paste as far as it can.
- Remove the metal cylinder and prepare a medium-sized bowl lined with cheesecloth. Pour all the contents of the cylinder into the cheesecloth and let it sit for a few hours.
- Strain the paste by squeezing it. Pecan oil should start dropping into the bow. Keep squeezing until no more oil is coming out.
- You can use the oil right away or you can transfer it into a jar and store accordingly.