{Tips & Tricks} Frying Foods

I know, I know…fried foods are sooo bad for you…but then again, sometimes fried foods are exactly what you want. So, if you’re going to consume the fat and calories, you might as well make sure that the food is fried to perfection.

Deep fried calamari, onions, chicken, potatoes…with all the different options, how can you not love fried foods? Deep frying is a dry cooking method because no water is used. The food is submerged in hot oil or fat and, due to the high heat conduction of oil, the food cooks very quickly.

Without getting into the nitty gritty details of the science of frying foods, it is possible to get fried foods that are not greasy. Cooking the food in the oil for too long will result in greasy foods. Obviously, you don’t want this to happen. As long as the oil is hot enough and the food is not immersed in the oil for too long, the oil will not penetrate into the food resulting in food that is fried to perfection.

Here’s an easy way to get finger-lickin’ good fried foods:

  • Choose an oil that doesn’t break down at frying temperatures. Some of the best oils to use are peanut, safflower, canola and, one of my favorites, extra virgin olive oil (but it can be expensive). Corn and sunflower oils can’t tolerate frying temperatures so you shouldn’t use them.
  • Make sure you have enough oil. At least a quart of oil should be enough. Any less than that and the foods will chill the oil. 
  • Pour the oil into a deep pan, leaving enough space at the top to allow the oil to bubble.
  • Heat the oil over medium heat allowing it to reach between 350 and 375 degrees F. If you have a deep frying thermometer, use it. If you don’t, the easiest way to tell if it’s hot enough is to toss a cube of bread into the pot; if it rises to the surface crackling, the oil is hot enough.
  • Prepare the food that you want to fry. Either let it set on a paper towel to dry or coat in flour or bread crumbs. If you decide to coat the food, place the prepared food on a wire rack to ensure that the coating dries and sets.
  • Add the food into the oil in small batches (don’t overcrowd the pan), leaving room around each piece of food so that it will cook evenly.
  • Remove the food from the pan with a slotted spoon once it is browned and floating at the top (it should only take a few minutes). Place the food on a paper towel to drain.

My favorite fried foods are calamari, chicken and, of course, onions. Here’s my favorite recipe for homemade onion rings:

Homemade Onion Rings

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart oil for frying
  • 1 large onion, sliced (ring form)
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • seasoned salt (to taste)
  • Cayenne pepper (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a pan to between 350 and 375 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Dip the onion slices into the flour mixture until they are coated; set aside.
  4. Whisk the egg and milk into the flour mixture using a fork. Dip the floured rings into the batter and coat.
  5. Place on a wire rack and allow the batter to set.
  6. Sprinkle the bread crumbs into a dish and place rings, one at a time, into the crumbs and coat the rings. Repeat with the remaining rings. Shake loose any excess crumbs.
  7. Place rings in oil, a few at a time, and allow to fry for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown.
  8. Remove rings to paper towels and season.

A few additional tips to keep in mind when working with fried foods:

  • If you want to prepare fried foods in advance, they can be kept warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.
  • Always remember that oil and water do not mix. If the oil catches fire, cover it with a lid. You can also use baking soda to put out a grease fire.

What are some of your favorite fried foods?

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