Cooking food by completely immersing it in hot fat is a technique used all around the world. Deep-fat frying produces wonderfully crisp, flavorful foods and is perfect for preparing foods that don't have a dense or fibrous structure, such as fish, shellfish, and vegetables. While there is no arguing that fried foods can taste greasy, if you actually measure the oil after frying, you will find that you typically lose no more than a few tablespoons of fat for about a pint of oil used.
Choosing frying oil
Look for an oil with a high smoke point such as peanut, soybean, or safflower oil. Safflower tends to have the lightest taste.
To choose a frying pan or pot
Choose a pot that's larger than the burner you'll be cooking on, and never fill it more than half-full of oil. Oil catches fire easily, and a large pot helps avoids spills. Make sure that you have at least 3" between the surface of the oil and the top of the pot. If oil should drip or spill, turn off the heat and clean the spill before proceeding.
To keep the oil at proper frying temperature
Use a candy thermometer. This tool makes frying a cinch. Add the food the instant that the oil reaches the correct temperature (usually, 365F to 375F), and maintain that temperature throughout the frying. Also, bring the oil back to the proper temperature before adding more batches of food. If you fry often, invest in an electric deep fryer and follow the manufacturer's directions; this is a foolproof way to maintain temperature control. Or try this trick if you have neither a candy thermometer nor an electric fryer: Throw a cube of bread into the oil. If it browns all over in less than a minute's time, your oil has gotten too hot.
To ensure even cooking
Avoid crowding the pot. The oil should bubble up freely around each piece, and the pieces should never touch each other while they're frying. Crowding the pot may cause the temperature of the oil to drop too low. Also, be sure to remove food in the exact order it was added.
To drain fried foods
Drain well by holding each piece over the pot as you remove it, letting any oil drip back into the pot. Then, set the fried food on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet that is lined with paper towels. As fried foods drain, keep them warm by putting them, the draining rack, and the baking sheet in a 200F oven while you continue frying.
Handling oil that has begun to smoke
Discard it and start over. Smoke indicates burned oil, which will give fried foods an unpleasant flavor.
Discarding used oil
Allow hot oil to cool before moving the pot and disposing of the oil.
To hold batter-dipped ingredients before frying
Set on a cooling rack placed on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Clean the rack and pan so that they can be used again to drain fried foods.
To recycle fat after deep-frying
Cool it, then clarify it by straining it through a paper coffee filter. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Empty peanut cans or coffee cans are good containers. Frying fat can be recycled 2 or 3 times before it becomes unusable.
To deep-fry at high altitudes
In general, reduce the oil temperature by 25F.
To avoid burning your hands
Use a pair of tongs to place foods into hot fat.
To avoid splatters
Invest in an inexpensive splatter screen, available in most stores' cookware sections, or cover the food with a large mesh sieve. Make sure that the food does not have water on it before adding it to the hot fat. It also helps to gently submerge and remove the food individually with a long-handled skimmer.
To douse a fat fire in a pan
Place a lid over it. Baking soda will also put out a fat fire.
To avoid a fishy flavor
When frying a variety of foods that include seafood, fry the fish or seafood last. Otherwise, once the oil has absorbed the fish aroma, it will flavor the other foods that are cooked in it.
To prevent oil from blackening when deep-frying
Add a wedge of carrot, which will act as a magnet for black flecks that can accumulate when deep-frying.
To avoid deep-fried foods
Oven-fry them instead. The technique of frying food in hot fat can be simulated by using a hot oven and coating the surface of the food with a film of fat. Coat the food with batter, if using. Then, coat the food generously with cooking spray. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 475F until brown and crisp. Oven-frying makes delicious french fries and breaded chicken.