We can all agree that deep-fried anything tastes amazing, but how often do you actually deep-fry at home?
From fears over burns to leaving the kitchen a mess, there’s a lot of doubt that can hold you back from experimenting with deep-frying in your own kitchen. But you don’t have to be afraid. These simple hacks will make deep-frying a total cinch. You’re just 10 tips away from the perfect deep-fried red velvet cheesecake-filled doughnuts… or, you know, whatever you’re into deep-frying.
1. Nix the mess
Image: Gabriel Herrera/Flickr
One of the biggest complaints about deep-frying is the mess. But there’s an easy way to avoid the grease shower your stove is used to receiving. Before frying, cover the stovetop in foil, leaving an opening around the burner you’ll be using. When you’re done cooking, you can just crumple up the foil and throw it away.
2. Know your oils
Using the wrong oil when you fry can make your food taste weird, and it can also be downright dangerous. Olive oil, sesame oil and others have a low smoke point, and if you bring them up to the temperature you need to successfully fry, they can leave an acrid taste in your food — and be a fire hazard. A neutral oil with a high smoke point, like peanut or canola oil, works best.
3. Don’t be afraid to experiment
Image: Oh, Bite It!
You don’t have to stick with fries and chicken fingers when you try frying. It turns out you can deep-fry almost anything. Try a cool new recipe, like deep-fried lasagna rolls, dirty martini bites or one of your favorite fair foods. Your excitement to try something new can go a long way toward allaying your fears around that hot oil.
4. Get it crispy
There are a couple of strategies you can use for getting the crispiest fried food. First, make sure your oil is hot enough — bubbles should appear around a chopstick placed in the oil when it’s ready for your food. Second, make sure your food is dry. For unbattered food, like chicken wings, this means patting them dry with paper towel before frying. If you are using batter, then let the excess drip off before placing it in the oil. Third, you can use an already crunchy breading, like panko breadcrumbs or crushed pretzels, to make sure your finished product has a nice bite to it.
5. Wok it up
Image: Chris Feldmann/Flickr
Forget stainless steel. Say “sorry” to your precious cast-iron skillet. For a truly hassle-free deep-frying experience, you should be using a wok. The sloped sides help keep splattering at bay and also make it easier to flip your frying foods as they cook to ensure even crispness.
6. Don’t get splashed
Sometimes dealing with your fears can backfire. Standing too far away from the hot oil, dropping your food in from high above… These both will result in splashes and splatters of hot oil. Instead, drop your food in gently, with your fingers close to the surface of the oil. Alternately, if your food has no coating (like with french fries) or has a dry breading, you can place it in a slotted spoon or Chinese “spider” and lower it gently into the oil that way. Just make sure to nudge the food apart once it’s in the oil so it doesn’t stick together.
7. Avoid the crowd
The promise of delicious fried food can make you impatient, but if you add all your food to the hot oil at once, you’re in for a disappointment. Adding too much food to the hot oil causes the temperature to rapidly drop. Rather than getting nice and crispy, your food will just sit there absorbing oil. Instead, fry in small batches, making sure there’s enough room between your food for the oil to touch all sides.
8. Don’t get dirty
As you fry, particles of food, batter, breadcrumbs, etc., can come loose and start floating in the oil. For the best-tasting fried food, you should skim this debris between batches as you cook. Otherwise it can overcook and impart an off flavor to the rest of your food. And if you want to reuse your oil for future frying endeavors, make sure you strain it before storing.
9. Let it dry
As soon as you take your fried food out of the hot oil, place it on a paper towel-lined plate to remove excess oil and prevent it from getting soggy. This works better than placing fried food on a rack and letting oil drip off. In fact, when Serious Eats did a side-by-side test, paper towels drained almost four times as much oil from food than just letting it sit on a rack.
10. Season ASAP
Image: Flickr/Larry Hoffman
Ever ordered french fries only to be served a heap of bland potatoes with a dusting of salt at the bottom? They probably weren’t seasoned quickly enough. You should add salt and other seasonings as soon as you remove food from the oil. And don’t forget that fried food can be heavy — consider serving it with lemon wedges or a tangy sauce to keep things balanced (Buffalo wings, anyone?).