MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: I dont understand why a butter is a solid at room temperature. can you help

Date: Wed Feb 27 08:40:18 2002
Posted By: Joe Regenstein, Faculty, Food Science
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 1014432585.Ch

Like water, fat can exist in all three states of matter.  The more 
saturated the fat, the higher the melting point.  Also affecting whether a 
fat is a liquid or a solid is the “crystal” state of the fat when it 
solidifies.  These have different melting points. Thus, under the 
conditions of butter manufacture, the fat will crystallize into a form 
that is solid at room temperature.

Let’s also look at other fats and oils. Most “liquid oils” are refined. 
Part of the process is a “winterization” process. The oil is cooled down 
to refrigerator temperature and the “fat” that solidifies is removed.  
Vegetable shortening is simply vegetable oil that has been hydrogenated, 
i.e., the unsaturated fats are mostly turned into saturated fats and these 
fats are then solid, like butter.

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