There have been quite a few questions about how to deep fry, so I thought I would add on to this post and give you all some helpful hints if you are new to deep frying. Deep frying is not much different than sauteing, or frying up some chicken, just more oil, less turning. Deep frying really is not hard to do.
a pot – a deeper one that has even heating is best. A smaller one for small batches is fine too. Cast iron is great for conducting even heat. A wok will work great too for smaller items.
a slotted spoon like a spider
oil – canola, peanut, soy or even olive oil – although the last one gets a bit expensive
a thermometer or not see below
something like a cookie sheet to put the paper towels on
If you want to do it more often, then I recommend also
a large Tupperware or Rubbermaid container or glass jar
Several methods work pretty well for telling when your oil is about 365 F to 375 F, a temp thermometer, a small 1 inch chunk of potato or place a wooden spoon handle in the hot oil, if it bubbles around the handle with tiny little bubbles, it is ready. For the potato, put the chunk of potato in the cold oil as it heats up, so does the potato. When the potato is golden brown, your oil is ready. I learned that one from Jamie Oliver and it really works great.
You will need a slotted spoon, but a spider is even better – you can find them in any Asian shop or grocery store I am sure. A spider is a large wide shallow spoon made out of wire with a bamboo handle. Anything with lots of holes will do, anything except maybe plastic spoons, I wouldn’t risk it.
When you put your oil in, don’t fill your pot more than halfway as when you add the item you would like to deep fry, the oil will bubble up and get loud. Don’t worry, this is normal. It might even spit a bit. This is partially because of the water contained in the item, like french fries. It will settle down in a few seconds. If your pot is too small to allow this to occur, you will have a mess on your hands. If the pot bubbles over anyway, immediately turn the knob off, wait a minute for it too cool and get that oil away from the flame. If you are making fresh cut fries, after you slice them up, place them in a bowl of water until you are ready to use them. DO NOT take them directly from the water to the fryer!!!! Drain them off and put them on a dish towel or kitchen towel and pat them dry or you will have a hot oil emergency. Placing them in water keeps them from browning in a way that you do not want them to brown and removes the extra starch.
If I am making something with a breading (calamari, mozzarella balls), I use a small amount of oil as bits of breading tends to come off in the frying, leaving the oil unusable unless you have a way to filter it. You can filter it with a funnel and a coffee filter into a glass jar, but don’t do it until the next day when it has cooled. If it is something like french fries or even with a batter, I will reuse the oil. I usually put it in a container and keep it in the fridge to preserve it’s life. I will pull some out for sauteing if I am low on olive oil.
How do I know it is done? The color light golden brown will tell you. In the case of french fries, if they are fresh cut, you may want to pull one or two out to test. Time will vary according to type of potato and how large or small they are cut up.
Once your batch of deep fried yumminess is finished, use the slotted spoon to lift them out, pause for a second to let the oil drain off and then place it on a bed of paper towels. Salt it as soon as you can. If you wait too long and the item cools down, the salt will not stick to it as well. The hot grease is glue for salt. If you are finished after one batch – enjoy. If you have a few more batches to go as all of your friends are over for wings and fries that night, turn your oven on 200F and place your plate, cookie sheet lined with paper towels in the oven while the next batch is cooking.
If any of this is unclear or you have additional questions, leave me a comment and I will do my best to clarify. I want all of us to feel like we can make anything we would have ordered in a restaurant, because you can.
Ideas for deep frying: Fish (with a batter) and chips, Indian pakora (made with chickpeas), falafel, chicken, french fries, onion rings, wings, mozzarella balls, brown rice fritters, risotto balls, mushrooms, cauliflower, rice paper wrapped spring rolls, shrimp toast, and tempura to name a few and make me hungry.
I promise to try to take better french fry photos next time! Now that I found those photos of shrimp toast from the flickr archives, I must make those again – so flavorful! Happy eating!