Click through the slideshow to learn the 9 steps to successful deep-frying.
1. Fire Extinguisher
OK, this may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how many home cooks don't have one in their kitchen. (Do you have one? We're willing to bet the answer to that is a mumbled "No.")
2. Frying Oil
Before anything goes for a swim in the golden pool, it's best to fill it with the proper stuff. Use a neutral-flavored oil with a high smoke point such as safflower, canola, or peanut oil. Avoid using olive oil.
3. Frying Thermometer
Oils have smoke points and flash points. The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil begins to break down and emit vapors, and the flash point is the point at which it will spontaneously ignite. Do not exceed this.
4. Deep Pot
Since oil expands as food is added and fried, using a heavy-bottomed deep pot (preferably not nonstick) is probably a good idea. Fill up the pot only one-third to one-half of the way up to play it safe.
5. Paper Towels
Have everything in place and ready to go. Chances are you'll want to drain the oil from whatever's being fried, so set up some paper towels on a plate or on a baking sheet to soak up the oil right after food leaves the fryer.
6. Wire Skimmer
Slotted spoons work great for small amounts of food being fried, but when there's a bigger batch of food involved, a wire skimmer is invaluable — it just makes life easier.
If using a batter, don't dip the food into the batter until just before it hits the oil. Otherwise, it'll turn soggy. Resist the urge to have everything battered up in advance.
8. Don't Overcrowd
Put too much food in the fryer and the oil temperature will drop. When the oil temperature drops, it takes longer to fry the food and consequently, it absorbs more oil and turns greasy.
9. Season Immediately
Don't forget to season the food! The best time to do it is just after it leaves the fryer, since it will absorb the salt, pepper, and other seasonings more readily.
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Deep-frying food is fun and delicious, and with these tips, we hope to improve the experience and, of course, keep it safe. And despite the continued proliferation of fad diets and a general health craze sweeping the nation, sometimes there just isn't a substitute for deep-fried goodness, especially when the craving strikes.
There's nothing quite like a freshly fried shrimp tempura emerging from a deep-fryer, homemade sweet potato chips, or some good old fried chicken, or, for you naughty folk out there, deep-fried Oreos, Twinkies, and homemade doughnuts.
Whatever catches your fancy, we hope that this collection of tips will help you succeed with your next deep-frying adventure. And, as always, please dispose of or reuse your oil responsibly. Don't pour it down the sink or reuse after frying fish. That's just plain nasty.