Deep Frying 101: A Guide to the Perfect Deep Fried Dish
After years of being told that oil and fat are bad for you, it turns out that isn’t always the case – this is a guide to creating the perfect deep fried dish.
Because deep frying has had such a bad press over the years, many people are a little frightened at the prospect of doing it, which is quite understandable. For one thing, badly deep fried food is truly awful – there’s nothing worse than biting into a golden onion ring or piece of breaded chicken, only to be rewarded with a mouthful of scalding hot oil, and a soggy, half cooked filling.
However, deep frying can be a simple, fun and satisfying way to cook, as long as you follow some basic guidelines and use great ingredients. Although there’s no denying that deep frying does add fat to your foods, if it’s done correctly it won’t absorb it which is where a) it becomes unhealthy and b) tastes disgusting.
Choose the Correct Oil
If you are cooking your own recipe from scratch without the use of a guide, it’s very important to make sure that you’re using the right oil for the job. You want something that has a neutral taste, a high smoke point and low in polyunsaturated fats.
You might be surprised to hear that animal fats such as lard and dripping actually fit the bill. As long as you follow the steps in the rest of this guide, you’ll also minimize what is absorbed into your food in the process, which means your dish will taste great, look good and be no unhealthier than the rest of your diet.
If you’re vegetarian (or just hate animal fat), it’s not a bad call to look into using coconut oil – one of the much lauded super foods that we’re all reading about, it has multiple health benefits, and I find that it doesn’t taint food with its own flavor, either.
Make Sure That You Have the Right Kit
This should really go without saying, partly because deep frying can be dangerous if you improvise. If you do not have access to a deep fat fryer, then you need to find yourself a wok, deep, heavy-based pan or sauté pan. Do not be tempted to try to deep fry in anything shallow – if you overfill it with hot oil, it’s going to hit the heat and could catch fire. Even if it doesn’t you risk spilling it on yourself which is something that you definitely don’t want to do.
Also get yourself a good quality digital thermometer – this is essential for ensuring that your oil is at the correct temperature.
Get the Temperature Correct
This is one of the most critical parts of deep frying – if your oil is too cool, it won’t seal the meat or vegetables and you will end up with a soggy, unappealing oily mess. Don’t try to rush deep frying.
If it is too hot, you’ll risk burning your ingredients and also releasing chemicals into your food.
Don’t Overfill Your Pan
Dropping too much food into your hot oil will cause the temperature to decrease and you’ll end up with soggy, greasy food.
Keep your batches small, and make sure that you stir (gently!) while cooking – this will ensure
That your food is cooked evenly and will have a uniform, golden brown color.
Make Sure You Drain Your Food Properly
Once you are certain that your food is cooked completely, tip it out onto a paper towel on a plate, let it drain then put it onto your serving plates. This will reduce the fat content, make it healthier and also stop it becoming soggy end route to the table.
Don’t Reuse Oil!
Having made your delicious recipe, try to resist the urge to go on reusing the oil as long as it ‘looks OK’. The more oil is heated, the less stable it becomes and it will start to release chemicals into your food.
As you have probably experienced in the past, it also tastes incredibly bad – there’s very few things that taste worse than things cooked in old oil, and very few foods that look worse than fried food covered in little black bits from whatever you fried last!
So, if you are considering trying out deep frying for the first time, you can rest assured that it’s actually really easy, as long as you remember a few simple rules. Firstly, make sure that you have the right oil – choosing the wrong one will taint your food with unwanted flavors, could result in a soggy, undercooked dish or worse still, actually be really bad for your health.
If you decide to go down the animal fat route, try to look for fat from animals that have been grass or pasture fed – apart from being better for the animal, it also produces far healthier oils. If you’re not into the idea of cooking with lard, you could always try out coconut oil. It tastes great, and is one of the supposed super foods.
Make sure that you have the right equipment, for both safety, hygiene and to make the most from your food – you will only get splashed with red hot oil once before you realize the benefits of a deep heavy bottomed pan. Use of a thermometer will ensure that your food tastes great, stays healthy and doesn’t end up filled with unwanted chemicals from your oil breaking down because it’s over heated.
Keep batches of food small, and stir constantly, but not too vigorously. Once you’re certain that your food is cooked, tip it out onto some kitchen paper to let it drain, as this will keep it crisp and lower the fat content.
Finally, try to keep reuse of your oil to a minimum. A couple of times is fine, but much more will mean that the oil will start to break down – again, this will release chemicals into your food, and after a while will also make your food look and taste awful.