It is clear with a light golden-yellow hue. It has a distinctive smell when heated, but no taste.
To make it, cotton seed is shook on screens and air blown to remove debris such as bits of stick, leaves, etc, and the last clinging bits of lint are removed (and used to make things such as twine, candle wicks, etc.)
The seeds have a tough outer shell which is hulled off them by machine, then the seeds are shook to separate hulls and kernels. The hulls are sold for livestock feed.
The kernels are pressed into thin flakes, then heated to 170 F (77 C), then put through a press to extract the oil.
The oil is then refined through several steps in a vacuum and deodorized. The oil must be refined to make it edible; refining removes a toxin called “gossypol”, which the plant produces to help protect itself from insects.
The leftover seed kernel is sold as cattle feed (it is very high in protein, around 40%.)
For every pound (450g) of lint processed in a cotton mill, there will be about 1 1/2 pounds (675g) of cottonseed left over. It takes about 5 1/2 pounds (2 1/2 kg) of cottonseed to make 1 pound (450g) of cottonseed oil.
About half the cottonseed produced each year in the US is used for feeding dairy cattle, which pushes the bid price of the seed up for those who want to use it for oil.
Oils that are considered popularly considered healthier such as canola, safflower, etc, are only good for one or two fries in restaurants before they break down. so to make them last longer they have to be hydrogenated, which in fact makes them pretty unhealthy. Cottonseed doesn’t have to be hydrogenated owing to the higher levels of oleic, palmitic, and stearic acids that it contains.
The world’s top producer of cottonseed oil as of 2003 is China, with a 27% share of the world market, followed by America (12%), India (11%) and Pakistan (9%.) The top exporters, however, are America, Brazil, Argentina and Syria.
Will smoke at 420 F / 215 C
Pesticides are sprayed on cotton crops, but the seeds have to meet American FDA standards to ensure that a minimal level of the pesticide residue have been absorbed into the seed. The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization’s Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues has also set standards.
Most of the residue concentrates on the clinging lint, and the hull, so in fact, most of the residue ends up in cows, rather than in the oil, so it’s the dairy products that any concern should be transferred to.
Oil quality: 18% Mono-unsaturated, 52% Polyunsaturated, 26% Saturated.
Low in cholesterol — 0 mg per tablespoon.
The seed leftover from cotton production used to be considered a nuisance. The technique to make it edible was developed in 1899 by an American chemist named David Wesson (1861 to 1934). The issue was, amongst other things, to remove its distinctive odour. He used his discovery to make products such as Wesson Oil, and Snowdrift Shortening. Cottonseed Oil was the most important vegetable oil produced in the United States until the 1940s. It has since then been surpassed by soybean and corn oil, and is now only about 6% of the oil used in America (2005 figures.)