How to Fry Foods
Comfort food, here we come! Once you know how to deep-fry foods at home, you can indulge in crispy fried foods whenever the craving strikes. When frying food at home, it's crucial to follow the best safety practices for cooking with hot oil—it's no joke. Use our frying safety tips below and our cooking tips to make sure your fried foods come out golden and delicious.
1. When cooking with hot oil, safety is key. Be sure your pan is stable before you add the oil or shortening to it. After the oil is heated, you don't want any hot oil spills caused by an unstable pan. The best oil for frying is a clear, relatively flavorless oil that can be heated to a very high temperature without smoking. Although peanut oil is favored by many Asian cooks, corn, canola, and other vegetable oils work just as well. When you add the oil to your deep-fat fryer, wok, or 3-quart saucepan, measure at the deepest point. An adequate amount of oil or melted shortening for frying most foods is 1-1/2 to 2 inches (about 4 cups). This amount allows enough room to add the food.
2. For perfectly fried foods, you must keep the oil at the correct temperature. Maintaining a constant oil temperature produces food that is moist inside and golden outside. Oil that is too hot burns the outside of the food and leaves the inside underdone. On the other hand, oil that is not hot enough cooks food more slowly and causes the food to retain more grease. Before cooking, heat the oil to the temperature in the recipe; in most cases it's 365°F or 375°F. Use a deep-fat frying thermometer to help take the guesswork out of monitoring the frying temperature. Even with electric fryers or woks, which may have thermostats, you'll need to use a thermometer to monitor the temperature. As the thermostat cycles on and off, the temperature can fluctuate several degrees.
3. When frying foods, make sure the pieces are uniform in size. Foods the same size cook in approximately the same amount of time. Also, add just a few pieces of food at a time to the hot oil. Too much food in the hot oil at one time will lower its temperature and the food will take longer to cook. To minimize splattering, gently lower the food into the oil using a wire-mesh strainer or slotted spoon. This helps reduce the chance of burning your hands.
4. When the food is done, use a wire-mesh strainer or slotted spoon to remove it from the hot oil. To drain, place the food on a wire rack or paper towels. If you have more food to fry, place the cooked food in a baking pan and keep it warm in a 300°F oven until serving time. Between batches of frying, allow the oil to reheat to its original temperature. Also, skim away bits of food that may have broken off during frying before they have a chance to burn.
Tools for Frying
- Use a deep-fat fryer or 3-qt. saucepan for frying. If you want to use a wok for frying instead, any type of wok will work for frying foods, but a flat-bottom wok is the most stable. This reduces the chances of tipping and spilling. If you want to use a round-bottom wok, make sure the ring stand is sturdy and the wok sits in it tightly.
- A deep-fat frying thermometer helps you monitor the proper frying temperature. Use a long, flat thermometer or any deep-fat frying thermometer that will clip on the side of the fryer with its bulb in the oil but not touching the pan itself. Candy thermometers that register up to 400°F can double as deep-fat frying thermometers.
- Use a wire-mesh strainer or a slotted spoon with a long handle to remove food from the hot oil. Both utensils let the oil drain off, allowing you to remove just the food. If you don't have a wire-mesh strainer or slotted spoon, use wooden or metal tongs. When using tongs, it is important to work quickly because you can only remove one piece of food at a time.
- Use a wire rack to drain fried foods, or a wok rack, or several layers of paper towels. You can also cover a baking sheet with paper towels, then set a wire rack on the baking sheet so that the excess oil will drip off the food and onto the paper towels. If you use a wok for frying, some come with a semicircular or donut-shape wire rack that fits over the edges of the wok, allowing the excess fat from the food to drip back into the wok.
Best Oil for Frying
- For fresh flavor in fried foods, use new cooking oil or shortening. If you do wish to reuse the cooking oil or shortening after it's been used once, allow it to cool enough to handle safely.
- For cooking oil, strain it through a paper coffee filter set in a metal strainer or through a double thickness of 100 percent cotton cheesecloth. Refrigerate strained oil in a covered jar and use within a few days. When you reuse the oil, add an extra amount of fresh oil to help avoid smoking and possible flare-ups.
- For shortening, strain as directed for oil. Then, refrigerate it in a covered container and use within a few days. When you reuse shortening, it's not necessary to add an equal amount of fresh shortening.
How to Make French Fries
When you think of fried foods, French fries are probably one of the first things that come to mind. Follow our step-by-step guide to fry your own French fries at home (you can also use some of these tips for frying other foods!).
Start by cutting the potatoes lengthwise into about 3/8-inch-wide wedges.
Pat the wedges dry with paper towels. If the wedges are still wet when you add them to the hot oil, it will cause the oil to hiss and pop, which can be dangerous. Plus, if the potato wedges are still damp, they won't get as crispy when you're frying them.
In a 3-qt. saucepan or deep-fat fryer, heat 2 inches of shortening or cooking oil to 375 degrees F. Fry the potatoes (1/4 of the batch at a time) for 4 to 6 minutes or until they're light brown.
Once done, remove the potatoes and drain on paper towels. One option for draining the potatoes is to place a baking sheet on your counter, cover it with paper towels, then place a wire rack on top of the paper towels and set the potatoes on the wire rack to drain. Sprinkle salt over the potato wedges as they cool. If you're not serving the fries immediately, you can keep them warm by setting them on a wire rack on a baking sheet, then placing them in a 300 degree F oven.
Bonus: Try Air-Frying!
If you're craving fried foods but want to skip the oil, it may be worth it to invest in an air-fryer. This trendy kitchen tool bakes foods at a high heat, creating a tender interior and a crunchy, crispy exterior. Air fryers combine the high heat produced by a coil near the food basket with a fan that circulates the hot air evenly, resulting in a texture that's pretty close to what you expect from deep-fried foods.