Every day is a fry-day: A guide to frying
French fries, fried chicken and onion rings, oh my! Just because most people envision fried food originating from the freezer, plopping into a deep fryer and mainlining directly into your arteries, does not mean that frying has to be defined by the fast food industry. If you fry the foods yourselves, you will be able to “have it your way” and be “luvin’ it,” too!
The frying industry has become synonymous with deep-frying, but not everyone has a deep fryer installed in his or her kitchen. If you do, you are one of the few that are both fortunate and ill-fated to experience its supernatural and saturated powers. It is easy enough to go to a kitchen and cookery store, find the appliances section, and make a beeline for one of these gorgeous deep frying machines. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that the Big Boss Oil-less Fryer is actually a deep fryer! And, most importantly, don’t try this at home (your dorm room)…perhaps your dorm’s kitchen or common area can safely accommodate this useful appliance.
After making this purchase, the most logical thing to do is Google search the Queen of Frying: Paula Deen. With this search comes all you need to know about the world of frying. She may mispronounce the word “oil,” but she sure knows how to use it! Peanut oil is generally the recommended oil for deep-frying due to its neutral taste and high smoke point. “Smoke point” is the frying term for when the oil starts to break down and release smoke, as well as marking the beginning of flavor degradation. Thus, the higher the smoke point, the better. Canola oil is another perfect deep-frying oil, as it has a smoke point similar to that of peanut oil, as well as having the ability to cook the food to the impeccable golden crunch without detracting from the food’s flavor. I have combined what I’ve learned from Paula with some of my own tips for deep-fried perfection.
Tip one: All of your food should look like little soldiers (in uniform). If you haphazardly chop the pieces, the cooking time for each piece will be different. Food that looks the same cooks the same.
Tip two: Be patient! You need to make sure the optimum temperature of the oil is reached. With the peak temperature reached, the food will cook to that flawless crisp. If you get antsy and drop the pieces in before the prime heat is reached, the morsels will be similar to Gushers: squishy with a burst of juice (and in this case, the juice is actually fat).
Tip three: Do not feel the need to purchase a frying thermometer. When you swipe into one of the dining halls (or do your weekly grocery shopping), get some white bread. Remove the crust and drop in one cube of bread to test the temperature. If the bread becomes wheat field golden within 60 seconds, your temperature is golden, too!
Tip four: Never overfill your deep fryer! Just like humans, food does not like to be crowded. Crowding will lower the overall temperature of the oil, leaving you with soggy and unevenly cooked tidbits.
Here’s a trick from the Queen of Frying herself: place a wedge of carrot in the oil. There is a property in this root vegetable that acts as a magnet to the black burnt specks that accumulate in the frying oil. Paula and I know best, so do not take these tips lightly! They are coming with “love from our (artificial and imaginary) kitchen, to yours!”
For those of you who do not want to pretend that immersing large quantities of food into fat is anywhere near healthy, there are of plenty other techniques that you may have not even realized are considered legitimate frying!
One: sautéing. In this process, food is placed into a pan with a thin layer of fat and, normally, cooked until golden on both sides. The oil used depends on what you are frying. Olive oil works well for sautéing many foods, like pan-seared chicken parmesan, but others may require a more delicate flavor. Corn or even grape seed oil fit the bill to enhance the potato flavor of Hanukkah latkes without overpowering them.
Two: shallow frying. This frying style is actually an off-shoot of sautéing or pan-frying. Here, you pour enough oil into the frying pan to cover up to half of the food’s height (think of it like this: if the food was a person, it would come up to just below the belly button). Tip: only use this oil once. Whereas oil in a deep fryer can be used multiple times before burning, this type of frying is more likely to alter the food’s taste after just the first usage.
Three: stir-frying. This process operates under the same principle as pan frying, using only a thin layer of oil, but the best results for stir-frying come from using a wok instead of a frying pan. In this process, the food is cooked at an extremely high temperature. It is essential to continually stir and move the bits of food around, so no sticking or burning occurs. You’re trying to make a perfect stir-fry, not brand a cow!
So, now that you know a little bit more about the different kinds of frying, go ahead and fry it for yourself! If you’re planning on acquiring that deep fryer you’ve always wanted (am I the only one who has one on the top of my wish list?), you should know that anything will be delectable dunked into this glorious cauldron of simmering deliciousness, and I mean anything! From Oreos to a turkey, this de-not-so-light-ful way of cooking could even make a sock taste delicious (though I do not recommend trying this…leave sock eating to your dogs). Thinly sliced meats and veggies cry out to be stir-fried, while succulent sea scallops suggest a picture-perfect pan-fry. Now go off and fry to your heart’s content, because you never know unless you fry it!
Cover photo source.