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Cooking spray is a commercial product that uses pressurized gas to deliver cooking oil or another lubricant to the surface of cookware. Food items usually won't stick to the surface of a pot or pan once a coating of cooking spray has been properly applied. Cooking spray contains three primary ingredients: a lubricant, a propellant, and an emulsifier that binds the first two ingredients together. The product was first patented in the United States in 1957 and has since become a common household kitchen item.
The most common lubricants in cooking sprays are low priced vegetable oils like canola oil and soybean oil. There are also cooking sprays available with higher quality and better tasting oils such as olive oil and peanut oil. Some manufactures offer lines of cooking spray that are made with all organic ingredients. Others offer alternative lubricants that are high in Omega 3 oils or offer a balance of fats that contribute to healthy cholesterol levels.
A propellant is the source of pressure in the can that releases the spray when the product is being used. Most cooking sprays use either nitrous oxide or carbon dioxide. Neither of these propellants are flammable or pose any health risks when used for kitchen applications. There are also some alternative products that are advertised as cooking sprays but are simply oil spritzers and do not use any type of propellant.
In order for the lubricant to be combined with the propellant, there also needs to be an emulsifier present in the cooking spray. An emulsifier is a substance that allows ingredients that cannot be easily mixed on their own to be well dispersed for a limited period of time. Cooking sprays typically use the harmless compound lecithin as an emulsifier. Over time, cookware that is often sprayed with cooking spray may develop a fine film of lecithin on the cooking surface that is difficult to remove.
The inventor of the original spray, Arthur Meyeroff, soon partnered with an entrepreneur by the name of Leon Rubin to release the first PAM® cooking spray in 1961. The brand name PAM® is short for Product of Arthur Meyeroff. The PAM® brand went through a number of different owners in the years to come and eventually became distributed by ConAgra Foods, Inc.
There are a number of different types of cooking spray available on the modern market to suit different tastes and kitchen applications. In addition to the original no-stick spray, there are cooking sprays for particular types of cooking like non-flammable sprays for the grill and special cooking sprays for baking. Cooking sprays also come in a variety of different flavors, including creamy butter and garlic. There are even cooking sprays for professional cooks that are designed to preserve expensive cookware during high-heat applications like searing and stir-frying.