Cookbook author John Martin Taylor insists that deep-frying your food can be healthy -- but only if you do it properly. This is particularly important when deep-frying with a wet batter, since the batter can easily absorb the oil. Taylor’s secrets include using clean oil, keeping the oil at the proper temperature and taking the food out of the oil as soon as it is finished cooking. If you follow his advice, your deep-fried foods should come out crispy and flavorful instead of soggy and oil-coated.
Fill a heavy-bottomed saucepan roughly half-full with cooking oil. Clip a thermometer to the side so that you can monitor the temperature of the oil. If using an electric deep fryer, fill the pan according to the manufacturer’s directions and heat the oil.
Place the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and 1 1/2 cups of cold water in a mixing bowl. Season with kosher or sea salt and pepper and mix until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
Prepare the food you plan to deep fry by cutting it into evenly sized pieces, if appropriate, or drying it thoroughly with a paper towel.
Dip the food, one piece at a time, in the batter with tongs, ensuring that the food is evenly coated. Allow excess batter to drip off.
Check the temperature of the oil. If it has reached 365 degrees F, dip the battered food into the hot oil using the tongs for five to 10 seconds and then release it. Allow the batter to cook slightly before letting it go in the oil ensures that it will not stick to the bottom of the pan or fryer when you release it. Add a few more pieces of battered food to the oil, making sure not to overcrowd the pot.
Monitor the temperature of the oil. If it dips below 365 degrees F, do not add any more food to the pan until it rises. If it goes too high above the proper temperature during the cooking process, turn down the heat slightly.
Fry the food until it is cooked through, turning at least once if necessary so that all sides brown. Cooking times will vary depending on the type of food and the size. Fried shrimp and most vegetables take only one to two minutes to deep fry, while chicken legs could take as long as 15 minutes.
Removed the fried food from the fryer, and place it on a baking rack to allow the excess oil to drip off.
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Alternatives to a Deep Fryer
- Give your batter a little kick by using beer or club soda instead of water and add additional seasonings, such as cayenne pepper, cumin or paprika. Celebrity chef Paula Deen uses hot sauce and garlic powder to bring out the flavor of her fried chicken, while Bobby Flay uses chile powder in his.
- When frying chicken or tough foods, such as calamari, soak them in buttermilk for a few hours before battering and frying.
After attending Fairfield University, Hannah Wickford spent more than 15 years in market research and marketing in the consumer packaged goods industry. In 2003 she decided to shift careers and now maintains three successful food-related blogs and writes online articles, website copy and newsletters for multiple clients.