When it comes to cooking, there are several methods that can be employed in turning food from a raw form into a more palatable and edible form. Some cooking methods include; boiling, steaming, frying, sautéing, baking and grilling. All these methods give foods different final flavour and texture. For example, a grilled meat will not taste the same as a boiled meat. It is this uniqueness that makes the idea of cooking extremely interesting.
Frying is a method of cooking that is used both in home kitchens and commercial kitchens. Foods are fried to achieve a crispy and golden brown dish. Most of the street foods and fast foods are fried. When frying, foods are cooked in a bath of hot oil or fat between temperatures of 350°F and 375°F. Foods are either partially or fully immersed in the oil or fat medium until they turn golden brown with a crisp outer layer and moist interior.
HOW FRYING WORKS
When a food is introduced into hot oil, it rapidly begins to dehydrate. When the food is immersed in the oil, the water within the food material immediately starts to boil and rise to the food surface thereby causing free fatty acids to form. The crust of the food helps to lock in moisture and prevents the food from becoming completely dehydrated.
During frying, Maillard reaction occurs, which results in a golden brown colour and rich flavour. The interior of the food is cooked by the heat from the oil and this softens the fibers, denatures the proteins and gelatinizes the starches in the food material. The crust which locks in water and forms as a protective layer is typically formed in heavy starch foods like flour based batters and dough. This protective crust is very essential to the frying process to lock in the moisture and avoid excess oil absorption.
There are four common methods of frying, they are;
- Deep Frying: In this frying method, the food is immersed fully in the hot oil. It is frequently done using a deep frying machine but can also be done manually using a deep pan or pot.
- Pan Frying: In this method, the foods are cooked in varying amounts of oil in a frying pan. The foods which are pan fried are generally sliced thinly before frying.
- Stir-Frying: In this method, the foods are fried in a unique pan with sloped sides. The foods are fried quickly over high temperatures and it is best done over an open flame or gas stove.
- Air Frying: This method is a healthy method of frying because hot air is used instead of fat. It is carried out in a special machine called the air fryer machine.
A very important aspect of frying is choosing the right oil. There are various factors that need to be put into consideration when choosing the best oil for frying. The factors include; frying method, healthfulness of the recipe, desired flavour, type of food etc. Different areas in the world have significant types of oils that are common to them therefore; oil type will also depend on the location where the food is cooked. The best oils should be those with neutral flavours and high smoke point. Unsaturated oils are preferred as the healthiest option but the disadvantage of using them is that they have a low smoke point. Make sure to put all these factors into consideration when choosing the oil for frying.
The most popular oils and fats used for frying are;
- Soybean Oil
- Canola Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Rendered animal fat like lard
When frying at home, here are certain tips you need to know:
- Monitor the Temperature: Use a thermometer to check if the food has reached the correct temperature stated in the recipe before bringing it off the fire. Bear in mind that oil which is too hot will burn the food surface and oil which isn’t hot enough will result in a soggy and greasy dish.
- Don’t Crowd: Immersing many pieces of food into the oil at once can potentially result in the immediate dropping of the oil temperature which will cause the food to absorb grease. Try to cook in small batches to avoid temperature fluctuation.
- Be Consistent with the Size: Cut the foods into similar shapes and sizes before frying. This will guarantee that they will all fry at the same rate. Size deviations will result in uneven frying and under-cooked foods.
- Drain Thoroughly: It is important to drain foods after frying to get rid of excess oil. You can drain foods using a rack, mesh sieve or paper towel-lined plate.
- Season Immediately: Season the food immediately it comes out of the fryer to ensure that the flavour is locked in while they are still hot.
- Eat It Hot: To fully enjoy the crunchy exterior and moist interior of fried food, it is advised to eat them hot.
- Be Careful: When frying foods, safety should be of utmost importance. Never leave a food in frying oil unattended and also try to keep children away from the frying area. Try to avoid oil contact by using a large frying pan and a heavy-duty slotted spoon or pair of tongs.
Note that; frying oil should never be poured down the drain because they can clog pipes and damage your plumbing. Ensure to always pour used oil into a disposable container with a lid before throwing them into the trash can. The oil should be cooled properly before disposing it.