Emulsifiers create two types of emulsions: either droplets of oil dispersed in water or droplets of water dispersed in oil. Within the emulsion, there is a continuous and dispersed phase. In an oil-in-water emulsion, the continuous phase is the water and the dispersed phase is the oil; conversely, in a water-in-oil emulsion, the oil is the continuous phase.
Emulsions also can be made by applying mechanical force from a blender or homogenizer, which breaks down the dispersed phase into tiny droplets that become suspended in the continuous phase.
Low-fat spreads, ice cream, margarine, salad dressings and many other creamy sauces are kept in stable emulsions with the addition of emulsifiers. These additives also are widely used in other foods such as peanut butter and chocolate.
“Emulsifiers enhance the structure of baked goods by increasing whip-ability of batters, conditioning of dough and helping foods like pasta be more resistant to overcooking.