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Deep Fat Frying Tips

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Deep fried mozzarella sandwich
Fabio Bianchini/Photodisc/Getty Images
With health consciousness at such a high point these days, many people do not deep fry foods. But sometimes some fried food is just what you want! If you're going to consume the calories, make sure that the food is perfectly fried with these deep fat frying tips.

Deep fat frying is a dry heat cooking method. I know that sounds strange, but it's considered dry because no water is used, unlike poaching, microwaving, or simmering. Here's how to do it:

  • To start, choose your cooking oil carefully. Oils with high 'smoke points', in other words, those which do not break down at deep frying temperatures, are best. Peanut oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil are some good choices.
  • Choose a deep, very heavy skillet to fry with. Add oil to the cold pan, leaving a headspace, or space at the top of the pan, of at least two inches. This allows a safety margin when the oil bubbles up as the food is added.
  • Make sure that the food you're going to fry is dry. Letting it sit on paper towels, or coating it in flour or bread crumbs is a good way to ensure this. Let the coated food sit on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes so the coating dries and sets.
  • Begin heating the oil over medium high heat. If you have a deep fat frying thermometer, use it! The best temperature is 350 to 375 degrees F. If you don't have a thermometer, the oil is ready when a 1" cube of white bread dropped into the oil browns in 60 seconds; that oil temperature will be about 365 degrees F.
  • Don't overcrowd the pan! Carefully add the food, leaving lots of space around each piece so the food will cook evenly. If you add too much food at once, the oil temperature will drop and the food will absorb fat instead of instantly searing.
  • Watch the food carefully as it cooks, regulating the heat if necessary to keep that oil temperature between 350 and 375 degrees F. When the food is browned according to the time in the recipe, it's done. Remove it with a slotted spoon or a heavy stainless steel sieve with a long handle. Drop it onto paper towels to drain.
  • Fried foods can be kept warm in a 200 degrees F. oven until all the food is fried.
  • Oil and water DO NOT MIX!! Keep water away from the hot oil. If you pour water on the oil, the mixture will explode. If the oil smokes or catches fire, cover it with a pan lid or cookie sheet. You can use baking soda to put out any grease fires, but be careful that you don't spread the flames around.
  • I always keep a fire extinguisher in my kitchen, just in case. Learn how to use it NOW, before you may need it.
  • Don't reuse the cooking oil. Some sources say you can strain it and reuse it, but the oil has already begun to break down from the heat, and undesirable compounds like trans fats have formed. Let the oil cool completely, then discard safely.

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