Pecan oil is refined oil that comes from the pecan nut. It is considered to be a healthy oil because it is low in saturated fat compared to other pressed oils. Some types smell and taste like pecans, while other pecan oil is treated to remove the taste and scent. Like other cooking oils, this oil can be used in cold applications, like salad dressings and marinades, in baked goods or for light frying.
Oil from pecans has a naturally nutty flavor similar to that of the nut. It can be extracted from raw or cooked pecans, which are usually roasted; deeply roasted pecans often make a smoky-scented oil. Some pecan oil has been deodorized, so it has no pecan flavor or scent properties. Since its flavor is neutral, it can be used in place of other cooking oils, including butter.
Many people choose to avoid oils extracted using chemical processes, often using a solvent called hexane, favoring those made using a chemical-free process called crushing. Of the oils that do not require chemical processes to extract them from the plant material, oil from pecans contains the lowest levels of saturated fat. Like olive oil, pecan oil is expeller pressed, an extraction process that does not involve chemicals. Common oils that use chemical processes to extract the oil include the low saturated fat oils grapeseed and canola.
The way pecan oil is used in cooking depends on whether it is pecan flavored oil or oil that has had its flavor and scent removed. The latter type can be used in the same ways as many other oils. Pecan-flavored oil can be used in many of the same ways as unflavored oils, but the cook must decide whether the flavor goes well with other flavors in the dish.
This oil is considered to be a specialty oil, so it is not always easy to acquire in stores. It is not common in most home kitchens, and many small markets do not carry pecan oil in favor of other cheaper and more popular oils. In addition to its use in food, this oil is also used for other applications, such as massage oil and cosmetics. Pecan oil used in cosmetics most often appears in soaps and perfumes, or in lotions made to prevent or treat chapped skin.