Frying - Southern Summer Traditional Cooking Style

Tips on Frying as a Cooking Method

There is an old saying about how Americans will eat anything if it's deep fried and coated in chocolate sauce! That joke may have more truth in it than we'd like to admit. Greasy French fries have reigned supreme for most of the last century in America. Go to any country fair and you can find almost anything fried from a turkey leg to a Twinkie. Fried chicken is a particular favorite in Southern states. Professional chefs are quick to point out the differences between pan-frying and deep-frying.

Deep Oil Frying

Deep-frying requires a pot large enough to submerge the food completely in hot oil. The oil is usually a high temperature (between 345-375˚F) and the cooking process is extremely fast. When it’s done correctly, the food will not be greasy. That’s because as the moisture within the food heats, it steams from the inside out, keeping the oil out. That’s the sizzling sound heard while deep-frying. It’s only when the food is left in the oil after the sizzling sound stops that the oil might seep into the food. This is because the food is no longer steaming, and no longer providing the necessary moisture. However, for some foods pan-frying is the better way to prepare.

Pan Frying Offers Great Variety

Pan-frying requires a pot that’s made of dense material to hold in the heat. That’s why cast iron skillets are the favored utensils for pan-frying. The oil is only deep enough to cover the food halfway. Contact with the bottom of the pan allows greater browning. For this reason the food must be flipped at least once to brown both sides. Pan-fried cuisine such as rosemary new potatoes or catfish are available in dining establishments in popular cities like Atlanta. Culinary arts school graduates in fine restaurants know that traditional fried foods, creatively prepared, are a favorite on every menu. The trick is to cook at the correct temperature and with the right oil.

Proper Amount of Oil and the Right Tools Are Required for Successful Frying

A high smoke point is necessary for oils or fats used in frying. Butter and margarine can’t be heated to a high temperature before they start to smoke; so neither one is good for deep-frying or pan-frying. However, they are good for a light sauté. When choosing oil, be aware that some oils will add flavor to the food. Some culinary arts institutes suggest using canola, vegetable, and safflower oil can be used for either deep-frying or pan-frying. None add significant flavor to the food. Corn and peanut oil are also good for either method, but will have a high flavor level in the food. It can be a trial and error experiment to choose the correct oil or fat. One tool that is essential regardless of which oil you use is a good cooking thermometer.

Temperature control is extremely important in both deep-frying and pan-frying. Too hot and the oil will burn, too low and the longer cooking time will allow the oil to seep into the food. Be sure the bulb of the thermometer doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan, but is completely immersed in the oil. As food is added to the oil, the temperature will drop; so adjust the heat to bring the temperature back up. Never over crowd the pot since the oil won’t be able to reach all sides of the food. In addition to using the thermometer, certain other tools are beneficial when frying.

Using long handled tools reduces the risk of a burn when frying, and an apron can protect your clothing. Modern deep fryers also provide convenience. They’re usually easier to heat to the correct temperature rather than using a cast iron deep fryer on the stovetop, as your grandmother may have done.

Today despite the trend toward healthy eating, frying food is still a popular culinary technique. Not only are there standard favorites across the nation such as chicken wings, tempura, deep-fried turkey, and more, fried foods are a Southern classic in states such as Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Cooking school instructors agree that whether food is deep-fried or pan-fried, as long as it’s carefully and temptingly prepared, it’s bound to be delicious.

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