Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Deep Frying Food, What You Need To Know.

I think everyone likes "Deep Fried Foods" even if they are not the best for your health.  I'm sure the everyone, too, has a favorite deep fried item.  I know that I have several including this week's recipe for "Butterfly Coconut Shrimp."  Just a reminder (to keep my dietitians happy) that one needs to eat these foods in moderation like everything else in your food (not weight loss) diet.

That being said, let's start with, "what is deep frying?"  Deep frying is one of many different cooking methods for preparing food.  In deep frying, food is submerged in hot animal fat or cooking oil.  The way to do this is by using a deep fryer (home version & best way) or a heavy deep pan (Dutch oven is best) to hold the fat/oil and allow the food to submerge safely.

Animal fat is also known as lard and is not used much any more.  It contains the unhealthy fats that everyone is trying to stay away from these days.  McDonald's use to fry their french fries in animal fat when they first started.  That is what gave them the reputation for the best tasting fries because the animal fat gives such a great flavor to foods.  Today, most people fry foods in Peanut oil or Canola oil for best results.  They have a higher smoking point and give a longer life to the oil.

Home deep fryers allow you to just set the temperature.  However, if you use a Dutch oven or some other heavy pan to heat the fat/oil on the stove a thermometer will be needed.  You want to get one that can be clipped on the side of the pan so you can see the temperature throughout the cooking process.  It will take a little practice to get the temperature setting correct and know ruffly where to set the mark in the future.

To keep the food that is being deep fried from absorbing the fat/oil, it is important to fry at the proper temperature.  That temperature is between 350 to 375 degrees for most foods.  Because the fat/oil temperature will drop (especially with frozen foods) when food is put into the fat/oil, I recommend using 375 degrees as the temperature you heat the fat/oil to before frying any food.  This way the temperature should not fall below the 350 degree mark.

The hone fryers usually have a oil filling mark in them to indicate the minimum and maximum level of oil needed to fry safely.  When using a Dutch oven or other heavy pan, be sure to leave enough room for the oil to expand when food is place in it.  You will also need room of an inch or two above the oil level after the food has been placed in the oil.  This room is to help keep the oil from overflowing the pan and starting a fire or getting someone hurt.  Remember to never overfill a fryer (no matter which type you use) for safety first but also for a quality finished product to eat.

I will continue with more about deep frying tomorrow including safety, filtering and storage.  Remember on Friday I will have the recipe for "Butterfly Coconut Shrimp."  Have a great day!

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