Fun fact: Fried food is delicious and definitely trending at the moment, especially with appliances like the air fryer bringing the term back into play. But not all fried food is created equal.
When only true deep frying will do, here’s your guide to making fried food (like fries, doughnuts, samosas, and rangoon) like a pro.
What to know about frying food
Find the right equipment, ingredients, technique, and some hungry friends, and you’re well on your way to learning how to fry food with the best of ’em. You’ll especially want to keep a few things top of mind: Your frying oil, having enough room to fry safely, and the right methods to make it delish.
When it comes to frying food correctly, having the correct equipment on hand is key. You’ll need:
- the right oil
- a good, deep pot
- a thermometer
- a spider (a big metal strainer) or a slotted spoon
The bigger the pot, the more oil you’ll need. A great thermometer could be a candy thermometer. It goes up to about 450 or 500°F (232 or 260°C) and clips to the side of the pot. This handy feature might help you avoid wrestling with the thermometer during the frying process.
A large pasta pot will do the trick for containing the oil, but even the smallest saucepan can churn out delightful sweet or savory fritters if that’s what you’re working with.
When thinking about how to fry correctly, you’ll also need enough room for whatever you’re frying. Work in batches when necessary.
Resist the urge to try to make your deep frying process more nutrient-dense by employing the world’s go-to healthy fat, extra virgin olive oil. Instead, use the cardinal rule of frying oils: Neutral flavor and a high smoke point.
You’ll need enough oil to fill whatever pot you are using about one-third of the way, accounting for displacement once you put your items in for frying, and enough room leftover, so that the oil doesn’t sizzle over the edge.
The USDA gives us some approximate smoke points for popular oils so you can scour your pantry:
|peanut oil and soybean oil||450°F (232°C)|
|grapeseed oil||445°F (229°C)|
|canola oil||435°F (224°C)|
|corn, olive, sesame seed, and sunflower oils||410°F (210°C)|
Just about anything can be deep-fried with or without a coating of deep-fried bacon. Yes, dreams come true. However, lean or skinless proteins fare a great deal better with some assistance. Learning how to fry like a pro requires knowing your coatings.
Batters typically combine flour with a liquid and a binder like baking powder or eggs. You’ll often start with a dry layer of flour, then a binding layer like a beaten egg, then a more textured layer like breadcrumbs, crackers crumbs, or other potential crunchiness. Remember: More texture means more crunchy edges.
Here are some popular coatings for your fried treats:
- a simple flour and water batter
- Panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs)
Foodstuffs in their birthday suits should be cut to a uniform size and patted completely dry with a paper towel before getting ready to fry. This step helps promote maximum crackle.
Don’t forget to season your batter layers to ensure a good flavor throughout.
Pro tip: When breading items, use one hand to move pieces from dry ingredients into wet ingredients, and the other to handle the breaded items so that you keep one hand moderately clean and functional.
The following tips and techniques will get you frying like a pro in your own home in no time:
- Oil should always be added at room temperature into a cold pan and then heated over medium-high.
- The thermometer is used to monitor progress, getting it to the desired temperature. To avoid setting off your smoke alarm or otherwise creating an adversarial relationship with your neighbors and landlord, you’ll need the thermometer for the full deep-fry. Check out the USDA’s safe minimum internal temperatures.
- You want the items to sizzle furiously upon entering the oil. Not-hot-enough oil creates a gummy, saturated, greasy outcome. Too-hot oil means that the outside will go from golden to burned before the inside of what you’re cooking gets a single degree above straight-up cold.
- Deep frying chicken without a thermometer? What you’re going for is extra crispy, and without a thermometer, that’s extra challenging.
- When you take things out, you want to put them onto a plate with napkins to drain off excess oil, or a sheet pan with a wire rack on it.
Deep frying safety tips
- Don’t overcrowd the items you’re frying so they cook evenly, and the oil won’t overflow.
- Don’t touch your frying basket while items are cooking so you don’t get splattered with oil.
- Avoid plastic spoons and instead use a large metal or wooden slotted spoon.
- To test the internal temperature, pull out the food and lay it on a plate. Don’t try to find the temperature while it’s submerged in the oil.
- Put it back into the oil if the temperature hasn’t reached the safe internal limit.
- Be careful when touching any fried foods that could still be hot.
- When you’re finished cooking, make sure to take the oil off any heat and allow the oil to cool down before handling it.
- Make sure to refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours of cooking, or even less time in hot weather.
- The USDA recommends straining any leftover oil you plan to reuse, refrigerating it, and storing it sealed for up to 3 months. If it smells or looks off, toss it. Here are some pro tips to avoid wasting oil.
- Never leave a fryer unattended.
Wondering how to fry food for any occasion and what the limits are? Here are some ideas, but the fry’s the limit:
- french fries, of course
- corn dogs
- veggie tempura (like cauliflower)
- fried plantains
- fried pickles
Maybe you’ll want to just begin with some simple wings or zucchini chips, but let deep-fried grilled cheese give you #Goals. How to fry food is more about how creative you can get than the actual process itself.
Sure, it’s delicious, but you definitely don’t want to add deep-fried foods to every meal. If you’re looking for crunch without as much oil, considering pan-frying, sauteeing, or air frying (which actually isn’t frying at all). Speaking of, here are some ideas to take your air fryer on a journey to flavor town:
When it’s time to impress your friends with the ultimate fried party food (say, for a birthday, a barbecue, game night, or the Oscars), look no further than a large pot and some neutral-tasting oil. The techniques are easy, but you can continue perfecting your signature recipes with new spices, coatings, and sauces.