Frying is cooking food in fat over moderate to high heat. There are two basic types of frying: shallow frying and deep frying. Shallow frying is cooking food in fat that only partially covers the food. Deep frying is cooking food by submerging it in hot fat. This everyday cooking lesson covers the basics of oils, temperature, and equipment -- everything you'll need to know to make perfect fried foods.
Some basic guidelines to follow when frying foods include the following: Always prepare a paper towel-lined plate or work surface to drain fried foods and absorb any excess oil; make sure foods are dry before plunging them into the oil to prevent splattering; and never fill the pot or pan more than two-thirds full with oil.
Choosing the Right Oil
Some oils are meant for cooking, others for flavoring. Cooking oils are mild in scent and taste and have a high "smoke point" (the temperature at which the oil starts to smoke and burn), making them ideal for frying. Food will absorb little oil when fried in fat at the right temperature; the fat will produce a crisp exterior and tender interior. If the oil is not hot enough, the food will be soggy; if it is too hot, the food will burn before cooking through. It is important to use oil with a high smoking point. Butter, which has a low smoking point, is not a good choice; shortening, lard, and most oils are more suitable for frying. Martha recommends frying chicken in shortening and frying potatoes in olive oil.
Good choices for frying oils include:
It is important to maintain a high, even temperature when frying foods, especially meats. A deep-fry thermometer is the best way to monitor the temperature of the oil. To maintain a steady temperature throughout the cooking process, do not overcrowd the pan, and do allow the temperature to rise in between batches when necessary. Adjust the burner heat during cooking if necessary.
Tools for Frying
A slotted spoon or spider is useful when transferring fried foods from the pot to the paper towel-lined plate or work surface to drain.
Also known as a skillet, a frying pan is a long-handled, usually round pan with low, gently sloping sides that prevent steam from collecting within the pan. Your frying pan should also be heavy-bottomed, to prevent warping. It should be able to conduct heat evenly.