Deep frying gets a bad rap and it mostly deserves it. The kind of things you deep fry are usually snacks, street food, and dude food. I can’t even really think of anything “classy” that involves deep frying. But it usually makes everything taste fucking delicious. That’s just how it is.
I’m not going to talk about how to use a deep-frier. I don’t have one but I assume they have their own instruction manuals that you can follow if that’s how you want to do it. I’m talking about pouring oil into a wok (or deep-sided frying pan) and heating it up on the stovetop. I’ve done this in front of some people and they’ve thought I was a bit crazy, but it’s very safe if you do it right. Here’s an incomplete list of things to be mindful of:
- Before you add the oil, make sure the wok is absolutely dry. One time I didn’t towel off the wok before I added oil, and when I stirred the hot oil, the water erupted from the oil. Luckily I didn’t get burned with hot oil, but I did get oil splattered all over my shirt and that was a bitch to clean.
- Never deep fry naked. I’ve done it, but unless you know what you’re doing, I wouldn’t suggest it.
- To deep fry food properly, the oil needs to be around 350-370 F. The thing is, different oils start to smoke at different temperatures. Most common oils are safe, but in general, extra-virgin olive oil shouldn’t be used. You can buy an oil thermometer at most kitchen supply stores for under ten dollars. I don’t actually use the one I have, though, and just stick with setting the dial around 6 on the large burner of my stove. Wait for 15 minutes and you should be ready to go.
- By the time you’re done deep frying, the wok you’re using will be extremely hot. Unless you have a long wooden handle attached to it, use oven mitts to move it off the burner. Be ridiculously careful when you move it, because hot oil sloshes around a wok very easily.
- Once the oil cools and sits for a while, any little crumbs or sediment will settle at the bottom. You can then ladle the oil (avoiding the sediment at the bottom of the wok) into a large jar and save it for another time. You can probably safely use the oil 3-4 times without worrying about it. Oil gets darker the more it’s used, so dispose of it if it’s looking much darker than the original stuff, or it smells nasty or weird (oil will go rancid).
- For fuck’s sake, don’t put anything made of plastic into the oil.
- Always have a paper towel-lined plate or cookie sheet handy to drain off the cooked items. Deep-fried stuff is oily but it’s not supposed to be saturated in oil.
There’s plenty more useful information here.
You may be asking why, if there’s so many things to be careful of in addition to the obvious health risks associated with high oil content, you’d ever deep fry anything. Because it’s goddamned delicious, that’s why. Just don’t do it every day. That would be stupid.