Deep-fried things are delicious. It’s just a fact. You bread something and cook it in hot oil for a while and you have an instant American state fair classic, like deep-fried Oreos or funnel cake. By fairgrounds and concession stands have an advantage that many home cooks don’t, and that’s a deep fryer. Without a dedicated vessel to making your own chicken tenders and French fries, you might feel discouraged. But fear not. You can deep-fry at home with equipment you probably already own. Here are a few ways to ensure deep frying success.
Choose the Right Pot
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For deep frying something, you want to submerge the entire item in hot oil, which means you need a vessel deep enough to accomodate that food plus all the oil you’re cooking it in. Don’t go for something too small and shallow. The food won’t cook correctly, and you up the chances of splattering yourself with hot oil which is not fun at all. Use a heavy, sturdy pot, like a Dutch oven. Avoid using nonstick here—with all that oil, sticking shouldn’t be much of a concern, and the nonstick coating isn’t great for maintaining a very hot temperature.
Choose the Right Oil
You probably already remember this, but when you’re doing a bunch of frying, you want to get a neutral oil with a high smoke point, like canola, peanut, or vegetable oil. The neutral flavor means that you aren’t accidentally infusing your fried stuff with flavors you don’t want, and the high smoke point means that you can safely heat up your oil to the point you want without danger of it catching fire. You know what is no good? A pot of oil on fire in your kitchen. (Maybe make sure to have a fire extinguisher while you’re at it.)
Don’t Fill Your Pot All the Way Up With Oil
If you fill your pot to the tippy-top with oil, there won’t be room in there for the items you want to fry, and when you attempt to lower them into the pot, oil is going to splash all over. Hot oil can burn you really badly! Avoid this by filling the oil only a little more than halfway, enough to submerge the item while still giving you plenty of clearance from the top of the pot.
Grab a Thermometer
Different items need different temperatures to get the right fry, but universally, you’re going to want to use a frying or candy thermometer to monitor the heat of the oil before dunking your food in there. If your oil isn’t hot enough, the food will just absorb the oil and get limp and greasy. No one wants that! It’s also helpful to remember that whenever you add food to the oil, the overall temperature of the oil and the food is going to drop. That’s fine! Don’t panic! But that’s why it’s extra important to get the oil to the point you want it before adding food in there.
Get the Right Utensils
You’re also going to want a slotted spoon or spider to help lower and scoop out the fried items from the hot oil safely. A seive with a long handle will also work, and if you are frying relatively big things, like chicken, you can use tongs or chopsticks also.
Set Up a Station for Fried Food
Before you start frying, make sure you have a place to put the food you’re frying after it’s been dipped in the oil. You should ideally have a bowl lined with paper towels to help absorb the excess fat. Fried food has a pretty short half-life, so if you have to wait to serve it, you’ll probably want to crisp it up again in a hot oven.
This is true with all food, but there’s something particularly sad about a deep-frried item with no salt. Wait until after you fry the food to sprinkle it with salt—fine sea salt usually works best to adhere to freshly-fried items.
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