Nobody can resist the deliciousness and fluffiness of deep-fried food, even your friend who’s on a diet who claims that deep-fried food “isn’t that good.” There are many opinions and questions about deep-frying and how it works.
We can start by explaining what deep-frying is, then the Maillard reaction, which is responsible for how deep-fried food looks and tastes. Then, we’ll move to what you need to know while using the deep fryer.
What Is Deep-Frying?
Unlike stir-frying, where food is cooked in a small amount of hot oil, deep-frying is about fully submerging the food in hot oil.
Most foods are breaded or battered before their gradual submersion to preserve their inner moisture while forming the signature crispy exterior.
The Maillard Reaction:
Also known as ‘browning,’ it is the chemical reaction responsible for changing the food’s color, taste, and texture. It is divided into stages:
Phase One: Initial Heating
After the oil is poured, filling no more than halfway, it is heated from 350 to 375°F or 177 to 191°C. Then, the food is placed into the hot oil until it is completely submerged.
Convection and conduction take place. Convection is heat transfer that happens because of a heated fluid moving from a warm place to a cool place, carrying the heat with it. This process is responsible for cooking the food’s surface.
Conduction, on the other hand, is heat transfer when two objects with different temperatures through their direct contact. The heat transfers from the now-heated food surface to the food’s core to cook it.
Phase Two: Surface Boiling
The water or moisture inside the food heats up and evaporates, causing the famous bubbles people mistake for oil boiling. The bubbles stir up the frying oil, leading it to cook faster.
The bubbles form a barrier that keeps the oil at the surface of the food, not letting it inside. This prevents food from being greasy and oily. Instead, the moisture leaves the food gradually to give it the crispy exterior.
The barrier formed refutes the popular belief that deep-fried food is greasy and oily. Deep-frying is, in fact, a dry-heat method of cooking. Greasy deep-fried is the result of faulty cooking, not the method itself.
Phase Three: Decreasing the Heat Transfer
The food’s crispy surface is getting dehydrated by now; so, it transfers less heat to the core, leading to less bubbling.
Phase Four: Bubble End Point
As the phase’s name suggests, there is no more water left inside the food to evaporate or bubble. The food’s surface isn’t boiling either now.
Since there are no bubbles to protect the food’s core from the oil, leaving the food in the oil any longer will lead to oil seeping into the core. This is the cause of greasy food that nobody wants. So, food should be removed at this phase.
Things to Keep in Mind While Using a Deep Fryer:
- Pick an oil with a neutral flavor and a high smoking point such as peanut, canola, grapeseed, corn, soybean oils. The neutral flavor will not overpower the food’s flavor; the high smoking point means it can handle the high temperature of deep-frying.
- Never leave hot oil unattended.
- Pick a fryer with a built-in thermometer; if yours doesn’t have one, get one. Knowing the temperature at all times while frying is essential for your safety; it is also important for the food not to get burnt.
- Only use metal utensils in handling the food; plastic will melt.
- Do not overcrowd the frying basket with food. This will lower the temperature, making the food soggy and greasy. Work in small batches.
- Give the oil a chance to be heated up again before adding another batch.
- Don’t throw the oil after use in the sink, or it will clog the pipes. Pour it into a sealed container and throw it in the trash.
- If you’re planning on reusing the oil, make sure it is not rancid. Filter it using cheesecloth and store it in a sealed container far away from heat and light. Keep count of your oil reuse.
- Make sure the food is completely dry before putting in the oil to avoid oil splatter. Dry your food with paper towels.
- After shaking off excess oil from deep-fried food, leave it on a drying rack to get rid of any excess oil still left behind.
- Don’t eat deep-fried food immediately, or you’ll burn your tongue.
Although there is a science to deep-frying, it is no rocket science. Understand that deep-frying doesn’t equal grease and sogginess. Don’t overdo it or underdo it either. Keep your oil clean. Be careful and stay safe.