If you have been having trouble getting your deep frying right, don’t worry—it’s really not as simple as it looks. Deep frying is often depicted as a quick and easy method of cooking that only someone who was not paying attention could mess up. After all, you’re just dunking some food in some oil, right?
Although this is the essence of the deep frying method, it is usually not as straightforward as it seems. Anyone who has unsuccessfully attempted to deep fry their own food at home can attest to this—often citing ruined meals, messy oily splatters, and even minor kitchen fires as evidence of the trickiness of frying. But with a little knowledge (and a bit of practice), deep frying can become a very useful skill to add to your culinary repertoire Consider some of these tips the next time you step up to the fryer.
Cooking with hot oil is inherently hazardous, and proper care needs to be taken to keep those in your kitchen (including yourself) safe from fires and oil burns. Cooking implements with shallow or angled sides are bound to spill their contents at some point during the process, particularly when frying with enough oil to completely submerge your food. Always use dedicated cookware designed specifically for deep frying to avoid potential injury or damage to kitchen surfaces.
Using the right kind of oil is more important than it may seem during that moment when you open the cabinet to find that you have run out of what you need. The ideal temperature for frying most items will fall somewhere between 350°F and 375°F, so you want to use an oil that has a “smoke point” high enough to survive heats of above 400°F. The smoke point is the temperature at which oil begins to break down into its more fundamental components: glycerol and fatty acids. Oil begins to lose its flavor and nutritional value once it has passed the smoke point, and it can also be very dangerous, as it is much more likely to ignite when exposed to an open heat source. Oils that have passed their smoke point will begin to produce a hazy, bluish smoke, indicating that the oil should be discarded and the recipe restarted. Canola oil, refined peanut oil, and refined sunflower oil are three examples of commonly available oils with high enough smoking points for deep frying. If you don’t have a proper frying oil on hand, always make time for a quick trip to the store. Substituting an inappropriate oil can affect the quality of your food and cause unnecessary hazards in the kitchen.
Check the temperature of your oil frequently. If your fryer does not have a built in thermometer, use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature of your oil between batches. Each batch of food will temporarily lower the overall temperature of your oil, so be sure to give your fryer an appropriate “recovery period” between batches to reheat to the desired value.
Drying out your food is an important step to take before frying. Excess moisture on your food will create extra bubbles during frying, allowing more opportunity for oil to be flung out of the pan and onto you and your kitchen countertops. Make sure to pat all of your food dry before frying to minimize the amount of oil splatter during cooking. If frying porous ingredients such as tofu or soft vegetables, press between paper towels for twenty to thirty minutes before cooking.
While it is tempting to drop everything into the fryer at one time, this can cause inconsistent frying and unpredictable temperature fluctuations. Every item that you place into the fryer leeches heat away from the oil, temporarily lowering the overall temperature. If too many items are packed into one fryer, the temperature of the oil may no longer be sufficient to cook everything thoroughly, and will leave your food tasting greasy and soggy. Also, remember that your food needs to be completely surrounded by hot oil to ensure a crispy, consistent exterior. An overcrowded pan may keep some items from crisping evenly.
Try to keep your food pieces as uniform in size as possible when frying. Keeping the size of your items consistent will make timing each batch a much simpler task, as all of the items will take approximately the same amount of time to cook.
Oil can be used more than once before it needs to be replaced, but try to avoid using the same oil more than two or three times in a row. Each use releases fatty acids into the oil, thereby reducing the smoke point and making it less and less appropriate to use at the high temperatures required for frying. Make sure that you replace your oil after every few uses to ensure consistency and fresh taste in your fried foods.
These are just a few tips for cooking delicious fried foods in your home or restaurant. Your approach in each situation will obviously vary depending on the food that you are cooking, where you are cooking it, and what equipment you are using, but the pointers listed above are fairly universal in producing tastier and less greasy fried foods. Whether you are cooking with a professional fryer in a commercial kitchen or frying at home in a stove-top frying pot , always be sure to take care and pay attention, or your dinner may never make it to the table.
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