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What is an emulsifier?

An emulsifier is a substance that stabilizes an emulsion. They make it possible to mix two oil and water-base components together. An emulsion is a combination of two liquids that would not normally mix. Emulsifiers are the chemicals that cause emulsions to happen. They also make it easier to create a stable, smooth emulsion. A few emulsifiers are egg yolk, honey, milk, acids, mustard, etc. Different emulsifiers offer different stability. Emulsifiers are present everywhere in food products because they help unmixable ingredients blend together. Examples include: making salad dressings, ice cream and cream cheese smooth. Food emulsifiers act as the problem-fixer between the opposing parts of food like water and oil. Food emulsifiers are also called emulgents. Making food emulsions can be challenging because foods may have different systems with many different ingredients interacting. Each component of food such as: carbohydrate, protein, oil and fat, water, air, etc has its own properties which are sometimes conflicting to one another.

Unfortunately, to make the two components compatible, one will have to use an emulsifier. They are needed to stop the suspended particles from combining and they also break the emulsion. A classic natural emulsion is milk. Milk is a complex mixture of fat settled in a melted solution. It is proven that nature’s emulsifiers are proteins and phospholipids. An emulsion is a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally unmixable or unblendable. In addition, there are two kinds of emulsions, temporary and permanent. In a stable emulsion, what happens is that droplets of one of the liquids become evenly distributed within the other liquid. One example of a temporary emulsion is a vinaigrette, also known as salad dressing. One can combine the oil and vinegar in a jar, mix them up and they come together for a short time. However if it sits for a while, the oil and vinegar will start to separate and this is what makes it temporary. Mayonnaise is an example of a permanent emulsion. Mayonnaise is composed of both egg yolk and oil. Egg yolk and oil would not automatically mix together, but if one slowly stir the oil into the egg yolks, then the two liquids form a constant emulsion that will not separate. Egg yolk is the only proven emulsifier to work to mix oil and vinegar.

Emulsions are two-phase systems of matter called colloids. Colloids are a mixture where which one substance of insoluble particles is suspended throughout another substance. Food emulsifiers make the food very eye-catching and appealing. However, without the emulsifier the water and the oil content in food will look separate, which may give it an unappealing appearance.

In addition, they add great quality and freshness to the food. The most common technique used for making an emulsion by stirring or shaking a substance. Natural food emulsifiers also stop the progress of growth of moulds in food. Emulsifiers are used in creams and sauces, bakery, and dairy products. It is said that they may also come from the natural products or chemicals. Some emulsifiers act as powered components like Magnesium Stearate, Sodium, potassium and calcium salts of fatty acids. Palm oil, rapeseed oil, soy bean oil, sunflower oil or lard/tallow are the materials used for emulsifiers the most. However, only certain substances act as emulsifiers, which means they help any two liquids come together and remain together.

Surprisingly, an egg is the oldest emulsifier. Both parts of the egg contains important emulsifiers. The proteins in egg white is the emulsifier and thickens the substances. Egg yolks contain two important things not found in egg whites: fat and lecithin. Fat can support emulsions, but can sometimes interfere with them. Egg yolk is consisted of lecithin which causes it to act as an emulsifier. Nature makes lecithin, which is found in eggs and soy.

Lecithin is a powerful emulsifier. It is a fatty substance that is soluble in both fat and water. Egg lecithin is a group of compounds primarily containing phospholipids, that is derived from eggs. Milk is an emulsion of water, protein solids and butterfat. Milk is an emulsion of milk fat globules in a watery substance. The watery portion of milk contains many substances such as lactose (milk sugar), protein, minerals, and certain vitamins.

Vegetable oil is extracted from a plant. Vegetable oils are used as an ingredient or component in many manufactured products. Many vegetable oils are used to make soaps, skin products, candles, perfumes and other personal care and cosmetic products. In contrast, some oils are particularly suitable as drying oils, and are used in making paints and other wood treatment products. Vinegar is a liquid that consists of about 5–20 percent acetic acid, water, and other chemicals. Vinegar is mainly used as a cooking ingredient, or used to make pickle flavor. It is also the most easily manufactured mild acid that has had a great variety of industrial, medical, and domestic uses. Today, many people use it as a household cleaner. Vinegar can be made from many original ingredients, each lending its own unique flavors and qualities.

It has been proven that no matter how much you mix oil and water, they always separate. Water molecules bind to one another using bonds that are stronger than the ones that air molecules bind with. Chemicals that don’t mix are called immiscible. Immiscible means unable to mix. The reason this happens is because of the chemical nature of oil and water molecules. Vinegar and oil are made of very different types of molecules that are attracted to their own kind. Most vinegars are solutions of acetic acid and water. Emulsifiers are attracted to both polar and nonpolar compounds. Emulsifiers lower the tension between the oil and water phases during interaction. Oils are a type of fat, like butter, is considered non-polar. Fats and oils are composed of long molecules called fatty acids. Molecules, such as the ones that make up vinegar are polar, which is why they mix with water so easily. The molecules that make up oils are also charged, but its positive and negative charges are spread out more evenly. Oil is nonpolar and less dense, while vinegar is polar and more dense. When placing both oil and vinegar in a bottle by themselves, they usually separate. The two particles separate because it is a suspension.

A suspension is a mixture in which the particles settle and separate into layers over time. When you let suspensions sit the particles begin to layer out. Oil and vinegar do not dissolve in each other. The liquid that has the lover density which is the oil floats on the top of the liquid that has the higher density, the vinegar. Emulsifiers are effective because the molecule have two parts. One part of the molecule has an electric charge, such as an ion, that will dissolve in water but not in oil. Adding an emulsifier to both oil and vinegar will possibly create a mixture. Being that emulsifiers cause an emulsion, this will allow them both to remain stable. However, they may only be stable for a given amount time. It also is important that one uses the proper emulsifiers for such substance.

Once again, certain emulsifiers operate differently depending on the substance. Another thing one must pay close attention to is the amount to add because this too will be effective. After adding an effective emulsifier to oil and vinegar and mixing thoroughly, separation of the oil from the vinegar will take a limited amount of time or it won’t happen at all.

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