Ask the Expert: Deep Frying

Q: I love to cook in cast iron, but deep-frying can be intimidating. How can I be sure I'm doing it correctly and will get good results?

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Is there anything better than sinking your teeth into a juicy piece of crispy fried chicken or a batch of fluffy-on-the-inside, crunchy-on-the-outside French fries? We’re hard-pressed to think otherwise, but we certainly understand why you might be hesitant to embrace frying at home.

Like any new skill you want to learn, a little prep work will start you on the right track, and the more you practice it, the more comfortable you become. The same goes with deep-frying. Here are our tips to deep-frying success.

SAFETY FIRST

Although deep-frying isn’t hard to do, it does require your undivided attention. This isn’t the time to be on the phone or to have small children in the kitchen with you. We strongly encourage you to have a fire extinguisher on hand when frying—and don’t forget that you should never pour water on a grease fire.

Gather your supplies.

You’ll need a 4-to 6-quart Dutch oven; deep-fry thermometer; spider strainer, fine-mesh sieve, or long-handled slotted spoon; long-handled tongs; a rimmed baking sheet topped with a wire rack; paper towels; and plenty of oil.

Be sure your Dutch oven is large enough to accommodate the food you want to cook as well as the amount of oil needed to fully submerge the food, and confirm that the pot sits flat and level on your heat surface. Also check that you can easily read the temperature on your thermometer. The spider strainer, sieve, spoon, and tongs let you safely add, turn, and remove food from the oil, which drains on the rack and paper towels.

Fry in batches at the correct temperature.

This is perhaps the most crucial detail of the deep-frying process and why a thermometer is essential. If the oil is too cool, the exterior of the food will get soggy and not brown; if the oil is too hot, the exterior will burn before the interior is completely cooked.

Adding too much food to the pot can significantly lower the temperature of the oil, as well as cause the food to stick together because there isn’t enough room for the food to move freely in the oil. Frying in several small batches will give you better results than frying in fewer but larger batches.

Clean and reheat the oil between each batch.

Use the strainer, sieve, or slotted spoon to skim off any bits of breading or small pieces of food from the oil and discard them. The longer these bits are in the oil, the more likely they are to burn and affect the taste of your food, so it’s best to remove them as you go. You also need to let the oil return to the correct temperature before frying another batch of food.

Reuse your oil.

It’s perfectly fine to use the same oil for a few sessions of frying. When you’re finished frying, let the oil cool completely in the pot. Then strain it through a cheesecloth-lined sieve, and store it in its original container or another nonreactive container with a tight-fitting lid.

You can stretch your previously used oil by adding a small amount of fresh oil each time you fry. However, pay attention to the used oil’s consistency and color; throw it away if it has turned thick or brown or has a strong odor.