Deep frying is a culinary technique that uses fat or oil as the conduit for heating and cooking food. This method is also called deep-fat frying. It's considered a form of dry-heat cooking because it uses fat or oil -- not water -- to transfer heat. Unlike sautéing and pan frying, deep frying requires food to be fully submerged in hot oil. It takes about a tablespoon of oil in a skillet to sauté meat and vegetables and about an inch of oil to pan fry chicken, pork, and fish fillets. When food i…
only partially submerged in oil, it has to be flipped so that all sides have contact with the pan. This is how food cooks thoroughly on the inside and evenly on the surface. But when you're deep frying, you simply submerge the food in a large pot filled about 1/3 to 1/2 with 325-degree to 400-degree-F cooking oil.
How to Deep Fry
There are two primary ways to deep fry. The first is the basket method in which you place the food in a basket and then submerge the basket into the vat of cooking oil. This method will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched a McDonald's employee make French fries. For home chefs, the most common way to deep fry is the swimming method. You fully submerge your food into a "pool" of cooking oil in a large pot or Dutch oven.
Choosing the Right Cooking Oil
Not all cooking oil or fats are appropriate for deep frying. Some oils start breaking down and giving off smoke too soon. The "smoke point" is the temperature at which fat begins to break down. The smoke point for butter, for instance, is 260-degrees F. So while it's a good conduit for heat when you're sautéing, butter gets too hot too quickly to be a useful fat for frying. When frying, a good smoke point starts at about 300 degrees F. Olive oil, flax seed, walnut, and sesame oils have a low smoke point, which makes them ideal for sautéing and to add flavor to your food. But since the fats in these oils break down quickly, give off smoke at a lower temperature, and alters the taste of your food quickly after hitting its smoke point, we don't suggest using them when you're making Southern fried chicken, onion rings, and other fried treats. Canola oil, coconut, corn, peanut, and vegetable oils have a high smoke point that is perfect for deep frying.
Deep Frying Tips
When done right, deep-fried food should have a perfectly crisp and crunchy exterior and a moist, tender interior. Technique is critical. Not only should you be concerned with the temperature of the cooking oil, but also, the stove burner shouldn't be too high, and the size of your pot depends on what you're cooking and how much you're cooking.
The best type of cooking vessel for deep frying is an appliance made specifically for this task. But it's not a dealbreaker if you don't own one. The next best pot to use is one that has a heavy bottom. These sturdy pots maintain heat well and tend to have fewer hot spots. Before reaching for the cooking oil, allow it to sit on the burner and get nice and hot. Test that it's hot enough by flicking water onto the surface. If it sizzles and evaporates almost immediately, you can start pouring the oil.
A pot that's designated for deep frying should have fill lines indicating optimal oil levels for different types of food, as well as varying amounts. Since oil expands when hot, you do not want to go over the line! A good rule of thumb is to use enough oil to fill the pot halfway. And then gradually add the French fries, drumsticks, donuts, or whatever else you're frying. Because the food should have room to float in the oil and not stick to other pieces of food in the pot, it's better to fry several small batches rather than fewer large batches.
Take the Temperature
You want to put food in hot oil with a temperature ranging from 325 to 400 degrees F. The easiest way to take the temperature of the oil is by using a cooking thermometer. If you don't have a thermometer, there are a few other ways to tell if oil is hot enough to fry food. Submerge a wooden spoon, handle first, into the oil. It's hot enough when small bubbles begin forming around the handle, under the surface of the oil. You can also toss a single grain of rice into the pot. Once the rice floats to the surface and starts to cook, the oil is ready.
Best Deep Fryer Recipes
When you think of fried foods, a few staples may come to mind, like Southern fried chicken, beer-batter fried catfish, corn fritters, and fried okra. Then there are those foods that you may not have realized were the product of a deep fryer because they're not crispy, crunchy, or golden brown.
Deep Fried Potato Chips
If you think Ruffles or Lay's has a tasty product, then imagine if you could have a bag of potato chips made precisely the way you want. If you like lightly-salted, thick-cut chips with thyme and rosemary, you can have a batch in less time than it takes to drive to the market and home again. The trick to making potato chips from scratch is soaking the sliced potatoes in salted ice water 30 minutes, pat them dry with paper towels, and cook in small batches in the fryer until golden brown -- roughly 3 to 4 minutes per batch. While the browned, crispy chips are cooling on paper towels, sprinkle on as much or as little seasonings as you want. To make a homemade barbecue seasoning, combine paprika, garlic salt, sugar, onion powder, chili powder, ground mustard, and cayenne pepper. For sour cream and onion seasoning, combine powdered buttermilk, onion powder, dried dill, dried parsley, garlic powder, salt, and grated Parmesan cheese. You can also buy premixed seasoning at the grocery store and then make several different mini potato chip batches.
Deep Fried Doughnuts
Doughnuts are another food that we don't always know came from the deep fryer. Or maybe it's willful blindness. For homemade doughnut holes, you need a few ingredients that are essential for most baked-good recipes: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and butter. Once you combine all your ingredients into a thick batter, use a small scoop to transfer individual doughnut holes into the hot oil. It'll take just about two minutes for each doughnut hole to fry. After they've cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar, powdered cocoa, or make a homemade glaze with powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla.