Cooking in a deep fryer can be intimidating. From the health to safety concerns, a lot of home chefs will steer clear of the deep fryer. Here are 8 tips to overcome your fears, master your technique, and get comfortable with one of the tastiest cooking methods out there!
1. Choose Your Oil Wisely, and Treat it with Care
Most people will just buy the oil that is cheapest for their deep fryer. Many of these oils are made using astringent industrial techniques and contain polyunsaturated fats and trans fats which can be harmful to your health. These include vegetable and canola oils. Instead, opt for coconut, peanut or avocado oils to fry in. (See my post about the healthiest fats to use in your deep fryer.) Be sure to filter you oil with a special cooking oil filter or coffee filter after it has cooled to remove small particles of food that can burn and spoil the flavor of your oil. Store your oil in an airtight container for later use.
2. Get the Correct Equipment for the Job
I don’t recommend using a big pot on your stovetop for deep frying. It’s hard to judge what temperature the oil is at and is a definite fire safety risk. Instead you should purchase a purpose-built fryer with a lid and a basket and maybe even a function to filter and store your oil. See my website for a variety of options and price points for the best deep fryers.
3. Season Your Flour
No matter what it is that your deep frying, it’s important to dredge you food in flour before hand. Flour helps your batter stick to your food. If you don’t use flour, the batter could slip right off of the food when you put into the fryer. At the very least, season your flour with salt and pepper, but feel free to get creative and at cayenne, cajun seasoning, garam marsala or anything else you desire to add flavor to your fried foods.
4. Perfect Your Batter
My favorite batter only contains 5 ingredients; flour, baking soda, malt vinegar, salt and water. Make sure the batter is fresh and thin to keep the batter layer light and crisp. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- For the best possible result, start by making sure that your ingredients are absolutely fresh. That means no rancid flour (pitch it if it smells bad) and don’t even think about using the baking powder that’s been sitting in your fridge absorbing odors. The baking powder is the key ingredient to making the batter light and airy—it gives the batter a lift according to Sell.
- Water is Sell’s preferred batter liquid instead of beer or soda water because he finds that the carbonation goes flat quickly and doesn’t make much of a difference. The only exception is if you’re making a tempura. In that case, Sell recommends using soda water, but work quickly—the batter should be made only two minutes before you start frying to take advantage of the carbonation.
- Flavor your batter with your favorite spices and sauces. “It’s better to season the batter than to season the food afterwards,” says Sell. Sell’s go-to savory combination is granulated garlic, chile powder, sage, celery salt, salt and pepper. Try mixing in cayenne pepper or hot sauce if you like spicy food or throw in some curry powder if you’re frying up cauliflower, for example. For a dessert, try adding cocoa powder or chocolate syrup to the batter. Or mix up a cake batter for an over-the-top deep-fired peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Don’t forget that you can also fry cake batter to make fried dough. Feel free to experiment and you might come up with something awesome!
- Skip the fork and use a whisk to combine your ingredients or “beat the heck out of them” as Sell says. The whisk will help you incorporate as much air as possible which will make the batter light and airy. “A thinner batter results in a crispier crust and you want your batter to be about the same consistency as a crème anglaise,” says Sell.
- For slippery foods, like sausages, dredge and batter them, then let the batter set a bit before putting them in the oil. This way the batter won’t slip off.
- Don’t keep the mixed batter for more than four hours because it will get doughy. Throw away the remaining batter after you’ve finished frying and always start with fresh batter the next time.
5. Keep Safety First
If you are using a deep fryer, make sure the temperature is set around 375 degrees F. If you are using a pot, don’t overfill it and make sure to use an oil or candy thermometer to get the proper temperature. NEVER LEAVE THE OIL UNATTENDED! If it begins smoking, immediately turn off the burner as your oil is too hot. Never overfill the oil reservoir or you’ll risk boiling over and causing a burn or a fire. If you are using a pot, never fill it more than 1/2 way with oil and add food slowly to gauge how much it will bubble up. NEVER THROW WATER ON A GREASE FIRE! The proper way to put out a grease fire is to smother it. Keep a large container of baking soda or a large, wet rag nearby for this purpose. Of course, call 911 in case of an emergency.
6. Don’t Overcrowd the Fryer
If you add too much food to the deep fryer, it will lower the temperature of the oil significantly and result in soggy, oil soaked food. You want space for the food to move around and turn over. Add food slowly to avoid splatters.
7. Prevent Oily Food
The number one culprit that causes soggy food it too low of temperature or overcrowding of food in the deep fryer. Frying at a high temperature creates a seal of batter and allows the moisture inside the food to steam it from the inside out. Once you are finished frying, remove the food from the oil. If you are using a deep fryer, tap the basket a few times to allow extra grease to drip back into the reservoir. If you are using a pot, remove the food from the oil and place it on a cooling rack on top of a kitchen towel or paper towels to drain.
8. Clean up and Reuse
Some deep fryers have a built in function to filter and store used oil. If yours doesn’t, allow it to cool and filter it through a special oil filter, coffee filter or cheesecloth to remove impurities that will affect the flavor and performance of the oil. Store the oil in a sealed container for future use. If you are disposing of old, used fryer oil, put it in a sealed container and put it in your trash. Recycling of fryer oil is popular these days as well. These recyclers filter and process the oil into a fuel for automobiles. Search to see if there is an oil recycler in your area.
There you have it! If you follow the steps above you should be a deep frying master in no time at all! So gather you supplies and fry away!