Saturday, June 30, 2007

God Help Us...

We've bought a deep fryer; in particular, one of these:
It's a EuroPro 5 liter (3lb capacity) digital controlled 1800 watt fryer; coincidentally the same one that Alton Brown uses on "Good Eats"

This one is big enough that I can do about a dozen wings at once, maybe 18... I'd wanted one that would hold two dozen or more; but looking at them, they didn't really fit in our kitchen.

Well.... technically speaking, you could do 2 dozen in there, but I wouldn't. When you deep fry, you really need to be careful about three things:
  1. Oil level: Too much food in too little or too much oil and you've got a problem. Too little, and the food won't cook or will get greasy, too much and the oil level will be too high and could overflow while cooking (even if it doesn't boilover right away).

    You deal with this by making sure your fryer has a enough capacity for your oil, for your food, and for boilup; and that your oil level is right for that capacity.

  2. Boilover: When you put your food into the hot oil, you're going to get a big boilup as the steam begins to escape your food. If you have food that's too wet (or as a lot of ice crystals on it), or the oil level is too high; you're going to get an very high boilup, and possibly a boilover, which is enormously dangerous.

    Again, as with the oil level issue, the important thing here is to have enough room in the fryer for boilup; and of course to minimize the boilup in the first place by frying food that's dry on the outside.

  3. Heat Retention: When you put your food into the hot oil, the temperature is going to drop a heck of a lot. Cold oil soaks into your food and makes it greasy; so you want the temperature to drop as little as possible, and you want it to recover as fast as possible.

    To ensure proper heat retention, you need a large mass of oil (mass means volume in this case), and you need a high powered heater in relation to that mass. Then, control how much food you put into the oil to keep the temps from dropping too far. Too much food drops temperatures to the point where grease will soak in.
We've been frying with six quarts of purified lard an 8qt dutch oven. It works great, but takes forever to heat up or cool down, the temperature control is non existent because we've got an electric range, the thing is messy (the splatter is substantial), it's a pain to clean up, and it takes up our biggest burner...

Actually it really takes up the whole range because it's not really safe to cook around a six quarts of 400 degree oil.

Of course, we had to try it out tonight. We have some uncooked tortilla, so just for the heck of it, we dropped in a couple of tortilla wedges and made sopapilla. Normally I don't like sopapilla, but hot and fresh like that... oh lord they were good; and unlike most restaurants, not greasy at all.

Well, those were so good Mel made up some yeast dough, and we dropped two dozen doughnuts; about half cinnamon and sugar, half maple, and all damn good. Oh and of course don't forget the doughnut holes.

We bought the thing for a specific reason though; I'm doing my buffalo wings, and some corn dogs for the BBQ on the fourth (small one, just like 8 people). I'm pretty sure I can drop four corndogs at once in there, and as I said about 18 wings... so for the 8 of us probably three batches.

The funny thing, and what people don't expect if they don't know; is that deep frying is actually a LOWER fat cooking method than most pan frying, and even some baking.


No, seriously. If you are deep frying properly, the food actually absorbs very little of the fat; especially if you are using a batter not a breading (or just frying a bare, skinned food).

If you keep the oil hot enough, the surface water in the food will flash to steam immediately; and so long as steam is bubbling out, grease isn't soaking in. Plus, by frying in lard you avoid all trans fats, and all of those fun bad fats that are in vegetable oils; and you don't get near the cholesterol of butter.

It's not dry grilling; but it's actually better for you than a sautee or a pan fry.

Of course that presumes we have the restraint to not start deep frying twinkies and oreos....