Corn Oil: A Modern American Cooking Oil

Corn oil is extracted from corn kernels. Corn is sometimes called maize, and corn oil is often referred to as maize oil. It has a similar origin story to that of corn starch since both products resulted from the inventions of one man: Thomas Kingsford, a British immigrant who came up with a process for wet milling corn. The process allowed for the extraction of oil from the germ of the corn grain. The germ is the part of the grain that germinates.

Before Kingsford’s inventions, corn was not considered a good source of starch or oil. Corn oil was not used for food for a while after its discovery. It would become a popular commercial cooking oil just before the turn of the century thanks to a machine invented by the Hudnuts – Theodore and his son Benjamin – of Terre Haute, Indiana.

Theodore Hudnut began his career in the corn industry around the middle of the 19th century by developing machines to crush maize into meal. The Hudnuts’ corn oil product was marketed as Mazoil and was an attractive option to animal-based oils because of its shelf life. It would grow in popularity but would not become a national household staple until the 1960s.

Corn oil became popular in the US because of its relatively low price and high smoke point.

Corn oil flavor profile

Corn oil is known for its relatively mild flavor profile. Its flavor is sometimes described as being almost buttery, and it can be likened to the taste of cornbread.

Health benefits of corn oil

While it’s not exactly healthy food, corn oil may have more nutrients than you think. Here are some of the compounds it contains that are responsible for its various health benefits.

  • Monounsaturated fats: The American Heart Association states that monounsaturated fats are essential for heart health.
  • Polyunsaturated fat: According to the USDA, polyunsaturated fats are just as important as monounsaturated fats when it comes to protecting heart health.
  • Vitamin E: Corn oil provides a significant amount of your daily vitamin E requirement in a relatively small portion.

Corn oil in your diet may benefit your health by treating or preventing health problems like:

  • Heart disease: The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in corn oil can help to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
  • Inflammation: The phytosterols in corn oil may have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Cancer: The vitamin E in corn oil has antioxidant properties that help to protect your body from certain cancers.

Health concerns

Some of the polyunsaturated fats in corn oil are omega-6 fatty acids. While beneficial, these fatty acids are plentiful in the American diet. You should consume more omega-3 fatty acids than omega-6 fatty acids. The key is to balance the two by increasing your omega-3 consumption.

Excessive consumption of omega-6 fatty acids on their own can cause inflammation and the associated health problems. Because it is a fat, corn oil will contribute to weight gain and obesity.

Common uses

Corn oil is particularly versatile because of its mild taste. You can use it in raw preparations like salad dressings and mayonnaise, or it can work as a high-temperature cooking oil that is suitable for deep-frying and stir-frying. It is also great for baking and sauteing. Use it in dishes where you want the ingredients’ flavors to be front and center rather than the taste of the oil you used to cook them.