Cooking is an essential process in meal preparation intended to make food easy to digest and also to improve its taste. There are several ways of cooking including baking, boiling, grilling and many more. Another common cooking process is deep frying – and that’s what we’ll cover extensively in this article.
What is Deep Frying?
Deep frying in meal preparation is where you immerse food in a cooking vessel filled with cooking oil. Deep frying differs from shallow frying on the amount of cooking oil used. This mode of food preparation is the to-go mode for a variety of meals such as fish, meat, pastry dishes and many more.
History Of Deep Frying
The history of frying in oil goes back to the 5th century BC in ancient Greece. At the time, olive oil was the agent of choice, considering it is plentiful in the surrounding Mediterranean region. Ancient texts found in the same area imply that the Ancient Romans banked on deep frying to prepare a typical chicken meal.
In the following centuries, the use of large volumes of boiling oil to cook food spread to the rest of Europe where it was readily accepted form of cooking art. Down to the 13th century in Europe, this form of cooking became standard, and there is evidence in the areas around Spain and Portugal pointing to deep-fried fish and meat as a staple.
It is also at this moment that the wave extended experimentally giving rise to fritters. Fritters are fried food covered in batter. The foods included fish, meat and vegetables. In the Mediterranean region, meals such as falafel gained recognition and are now a staple. Hot oil frying with time became a staple of the Mediterranean cuisine.
Fried potatoes are an integral part of deep-frying, and their conception traces to sometime around the 17th century in the Western Europe region. With potato frying gaining appeal, French fries came through sometime in the late 18th century, with their popularity peaking in the dawn of the 19th century.
Enter Modern Deep Frying
As this cooking art picked and received appreciation from consumers, the right kitchenware came through for proper handling. The primary utensil was the deep-set cooking vessel. The development of ironworks was a contributing factor, and several frying pans were crafted during this time.
The Jewish migration in the mid to late 19th century introduced deep frying to the United States. The southern states were a critical developmental area for the technique, further developed by the slaves. The slaves, mostly of African descent, used to make their food more palatable by adding seasoning to foods such as meat and cover them in the batter. The battered food was then put in boiling oil to give it a crispy texture. The fried southern cuisine is the foundation for most modern-day fried foods.
The Fast Food Scene
The fast-food scene is the beneficiary of the deep frying cooking mode. Several foods undergo this preparation such as French fries, fish, chicken, corn dogs and many more. Most fast food outlets have a deep frying chamber to cater for such meals.
Why Deep Frying is Good
Deep frying is a choice for many due to many reasons. One of them is the improvement of taste. Using this method, food gets a crunchy feeling with the crust being rich in flavor. Another reason is for the warming of already prepared food. Some utilize this mode of cooking to add some flavor to stale food and make it palatable.
In dishes such as fish, it may help get rid of odors, especially when done for a considerable time
Deep Frying at Home
Deep frying at home is a simple affair if you know how to go about it. You need to have a decent idea of what you are cooking and have the right materials with you. There are also several precautionary measures to be aware of, to prevent things going awry in the kitchen.
Before cooking with hot, sizzling oil, you need the following utensils with you.
- The Cooking Vessel
The cooking vessel is the most vital utensil to have when you decide deep frying is the best choice in food preparation. There are various vessels to opt for, depending on the amount of food to cook. You also focus on the material.
A deep-set frying pan is the best option to accommodate a decent amount of cooking oil. Non-stick pans are the best as they are easy to clean. A custom-designed one is an excellent way to go, especially if you know a craftsman specializing in them.
Can you deep fry in a Dutch oven as a suitable vessel? Yes, it is possible. The heat distribution is uniform, and it ensures a well-done meal. It is ideal for battered food as the evenly heated oil can penetrate the layers entirely.
- Turning Apparatus
The turning apparatus is also vital to ensure the food fried is evenly cooked on both sides. Large wooden spoons and spatulas are an excellent choice in this case. Sieved spoons are the best when it comes to serving the deep-fried food, especially the extraction part.
- A Strainer
When serving the meal straight off the vessel, you need to have a strainer to rid of excess oil. The strainer is like a sieve assuming a bowl shape. There are smaller strainers assuming the form of a big spoon that you may also use as a turning apparatus.
There are also electric deep frying equipment that provides a simpler alternative when it comes to tuning the cooking conditions. They may be quite expensive but an excellent option for standout kitchen duty.
Safety When Deep Frying at Home
When dealing with large amounts of oil, such as in deep frying, you get exposed to various hazards. If not careful, you might get into an accident with a severe outcome. As such, you need to exercise safety precautions for a smooth session using your kitchen.
Below are some safety tips to observe when you are using large amounts of oil to prepare your meal.
- Always Have the Right Utensils
As earlier indicated, before making the move to cooking in oil, you need to have the right utensils with you. Above are some of the essential tools you require when deep frying. The appliances need to be in good condition. The vessel needs to be in pristine shape without any holes or cracks. The holes or cracks can cause a leakage of the oil which may lead to a fire outbreak or even slips. Both are dangerous with the perilous result as the outcome.
A utensil you should not miss is a lid that properly fits into the fryer. It is useful in case the oil catches fire where you cover the pan to control the fire and prevent it from spreading.
- Get the Right Gear for the Kitchen
To maintain both safety and hygiene in the cooking area, get the right gear. You need to note that the boiling oil may splatter and if it touches you; it may result in burns or even damage your clothes.
Get an apron to shield you and your attire as well as some kitchen gloves or mittens. The hand gear comes in handy when handling the cooking vessel, which is a good conductor; hence, can burn you. It is also advisable to have headgear, the hair net, to uphold the hygiene standard of your food preparation.
- The Fryer Should Be On a Stable Platform
The fryer or cooking vessel containing the oil needs to be on a stable platform. The platform should not be shaky or in a slanting position. The oil is hot, and if unstable, it may trip over and cause some accidents.
You have to be extra careful, more so if your kitchen sports a slippery floor. Also, the oil may pour into the water, causing a violent reaction that may be hazardous. If the fryer does not have a suitable configuration, then replace it for your safety. The handle should also face the side of the cooker to prevent accidental contact, which may lead to tipping over the contents in the pan.
- Have the Right Measurements of Cooking Oil
Another area to be keen when using deep fryer is the amount of cooking oil. If you have a recipe book, stick to the measurement. However, note that the volume of the oil in your cooking pan needs to be proportional to its size. Never should the amount exceed two-third of the pan.
If you put too much oil, there is an increased risk of splatters when you dip your food in it. There is also the risk of spills or catching fire which are dangers you have to be on the lookout for. You should also let the oil heat for some time before immersing the food in the vessel. It prevents the food from sticking or being unevenly cooked.
- Water and Oil are Sworn Enemies
Water and oil do not mix, and the reaction between them when the oil is hot can have devastating effects. Before pouring the cooking oil into the frying pan, be sure that it is dry. If there is some moisture on it, pad it with a clean and dry towel. You may also put it on slow heat to completely dry before introducing the oil.
When dealing with frozen food, allow it to thaw then use paper towels to get rid of excess moisture. Doing this goes a long way in curbing the reaction of water and hot oil and prevents nasty injuries that may come along.
- Keep an Eye on Food Amount
The food you want to fry is another aspect to look at when upholding safety in the cooking area. Large amounts need a large pan if you have to cook it whole such as chicken or turkey. If you have a small pot, then it is advisable to have smaller pieces. A large chunk on a small pan may cause splatters or make the oil spill from the container.
- A High Smoke Point Oil is the Best
Smoke point refers to the point that the boiling oil starts to get burnt and produce thick smoke. It is convenient to work with oils with a high smoke point as they do not easily burn. For stable oils, go for saturated and mono-unsaturated fats. The same applies to oils rich in antioxidants such as olive oil.
- The Kitchen is a No-Go Zone for Children
Another safety measure to employ is to keep the kitchen out of bounds for children. Children are very playful and when getting to the kitchen, can turn out to be dangerous. They can easily trip over the utensils, and the hot oil can be very harmful to them either if they slip on it or if it comes to contact with their bodies.
When cooking, keep them engaged elsewhere to prevent them from coming to the kitchen. Another option is to have a child-lock on the door to the cooking area.
- Do Not Leave the Heating Oil Unattended
Keeping watch of whatever you are doing is vital in curbing several incidences in the cooking area. In this vein, you should not leave the boiling oil unattended. If you have food on, it may get burnt. For saturated oils, the oil can get heated and fill the room in smoke, impairing sight and breathe; a hazardous situation.
The oil splatters may make it to the fire increasing the risk of a fire outbreak.
- Try the Outdoors
For efficient safety standards, the environment is a crucial determining factor. Looking at the environment, the outdoors are suitable for setting up your fryer. There are minimal obstructions, and if it is a grassy area, there is a minimal chance of slips due to oil spills. In case of a fire outbreak, it is easy to contain it as compared to an in-house establishment. However, you need to take note of factors such as the stability of the fryer. The climate is also something not to ignore, especially if it is rainy.
- Avoid Splatters
Splatters can derail your cooking experience and may result in injuries or damage to attire. As such, you have to avoid splattering oil at all costs. One way is to avoid immersing wet food into the heated oil. Try and get rid of the excess moisture before putting them in oil.
You also need to know how to put food into the pan. If you have the turning apparatus such as big spoon or tongs the better. However, if you lack the utensil, use a sliding motion. Slide the food through the sides of the pan as opposed to just dropping it in the middle of the oil as the oil may splash.
- Keep The Heat Moderate
Keep an eye on the heat and let it be moderate. With moderate temperature, you avoid the oil getting too hot to the point of burning or splattering. If it gets too hot, it may be too hard to handle when cooking. If it is boiling, try putting the heat low and let it cool down before proceeding to cook.
Highlighted above are some essential tips for deep frying when focusing on the safety aspect.
Frying Different Foods
To get deep-frying correctly, having essential tips on how to go with various foods is a good start. Below are some kitchen tidbits when it comes to having different meals in the cauldron of boiling oil.
- Deep Frying Meat
Meat gets an excellent taste when you deep fry it. To make it amazing, fry it as sizeable chunks, or cubes. In such a form, it takes a short time to get ready and also gets well cooked on the inside. If you decide to use a large chunk, then make some strips with a knife on its surface for easy penetration by the oil.
To cook it faster, you may pre-boil it and wait for a sumptuous meal.
- Frying Fish
Fried fish is a popular dish that goes well with French fries, rice or mashed potatoes. To fry fish, ensure you do away with the scales then make horizontal incisions on its surface for easy cooking. Make sure the fish is fresh to prevent odors in your house. To beat odors, an apple slice placed on the edge of the pan will do.
- Deep Frying Vegetables
When deep-frying vegetables, the drill is the same, make sure they are dry them slide them in the cooking vessel. For potatoes, you may shallow boil them to make frying them an easy affair.
- For Buttered Food
Butter makes the food crunchy after frying due to the layer of the flour mixture as its coat. The dough should not be such thick as it may take time to get to the innermost layer of the food. Make the layering moderate; not too thin and not too thick.
- Warming Up Food
As earlier hinted above, another reason for deep frying food is to warm up the meal. When warming, you use oil depending on how big the meal is. For a small meal, a decent amount of oil is advisable, more so if you already cooked it in oil. You may fry quickly with a small amount of oil to reheat your food.
Here is where you ask yourself, ‘what is flash-frying?’ flash frying is the to-go option when warming food where you put the food for a short while in hot oil. The hot oil transfers the heat at a fast rate; hence an efficient warming process.
- Frying Fatty Food
Some foods are naturally fatty such as meat or pork. When frying such food, you do not have to use much oil as their natural fat can do perfectly well. Adding some oil makes it too much and can affect the taste of the food. For example, when dealing with pork, just put it in the frying vessel and let its fat melt and cook it. For the residue oil, you may dispose of it or use it to make lard for cooking.
Frying Without Oil
Aside from deep frying, there is another mode of frying where you do not use oil. It is common in some meat dishes, especially the fatty parts, as indicated earlier. It is also applicable when frying nuts referred to as roasting. For nuts, their oil content comes to play and helps them cook well.
Another instance to fry without oil is when warming prior-fried food or a meal that has high oil content. This is an option to use for leftover fish or chicken.
Of the many ways of preparing food, deep frying ranks among the most popular. It is a suitable option for meat, chicken, fish, pastry and some vegetable dishes. The history of deep-frying is rich and exciting, tracing its roots back to ancient Greece. It soon spread to other areas of Europe and the cast iron age pushed it further with the crafting of suitable utensils for deep frying.
In the United States, the southern states were the foundation of this mode of cooking. It was further boosted by the immigration of Jews who brought the art with them. The development went on rapidly, and the fast-food industry was a significant beneficiary of this method of cooking.
When deep-frying at home, you need to exercise proper measures for a safe working environment. Always have the right gear for hygiene and protection in the cooking area. Also, have the right utensils to avoid spillages which may cause accidents or fire.
When using the oil, look at the temperature, keeping it at moderate levels. Avoid contact with the hot oil with water as it may splatter and cause injuries. The outdoors is a great spot to have your cooking station, especially if the weather is conducive. There are minimal chances of slips, and you have an excellent opportunity of handling incidents should you come across them.
Finally, be keen on the type of oil, with saturated types being the best due to their high smoke points. As such, it does not burn quickly and produces dense smoke.