Whether you are for or against deep frying, it's hard to deny the fact that deep fried food is delicious. A crisp exterior and a hot interior, the subtle caramelized flavor—it's so hard to resist. And while you might not believe it, when done properly, fried food doesn't have to be extremely unhealthy. In fact, learning how to deep fry properly can take that greasy mess to the level of divine cuisine.
Separate Fact from Fiction
When done properly, fried food is not
the greasy death trap that people make it out to be. The steam being pushed out from the food you are frying will also push the grease out, preventing your fried food from being greasy. This means that the oil should only be on the outermost layer of the food. The important thing to remember is that the temperature of the oil will fully dictate how greasy your food will be.
Always use a thermometer designed for oil if your fryer doesn't come with one. The target temperature you're going to look for is 350º-375º. Any hotter and you risk burning your food, any colder and your food will become a greasy mess.
Using a spider—a metal strainer attached to a wooden handle—allows for easy retrieval and draining of fried food. There are also specialty baskets that sit in the base of your fryer, making it easier to retrieve and drain your food as needed.
Cool your food on baking racks, rather than paper towels. This allows the grease to drip away, rather than pool at the bottom of the fried food.
Deep frying is a little scary when you're not used to doing it, but with a few simple precautions you can minimize all of the risks involved.
If you're going to deep fry on your stove top, make sure you pick a cast iron Dutch oven rather than something made of flimsy aluminum. This will help keep the temperature from rising or falling too quickly, and the added weight will help prevent it from accidentally being knocked over.
If you're looking into an electric stand-alone model, avoid aluminum ones with heating elements welded to the bottom. Once again, try to find a heavy cast iron electric model with a heating element that rests in the oil.
Don't fry any frozen food with large ice crystals on it. When the ice hits the superheated oil, the water rapidly expands, resulting in an explosion of hot grease and water—which can easily ruin your day at best and be dangerous at worst.
Keep an eye on the temperature; grease fires are no joke! If you do run into trouble, the best way to extinguish a grease fire is to remove the heat source (unplug the heating element or turn off the stove) and add a lid to the top. Do not try to extinguish a grease fire with water as it will simply splash the boiling oil out of the contained pot. Fire extinguishers have a chance of blowing the oil out of the pot as well. No matter how delicious the end result, it isn't worth risking your safety.
Now, go on and fry everything from asparagus to zucchini—you know you want to!