Deep frying is a cooking method in which food is submerged in hot oil or fat. This is normally performed with a deep fryer or chip pan; industrially, a pressure fryer or vacuum fryer may be used.
Deep frying is classified as a dry cooking method because no water is used. Due to the high temperature involved and the high heat conduction of oil, it cooks food extremely quickly.
Due to a lack of either resources or technology, frying was absent from some ancient cultures. Because these cultures did not have use of rotary motion, they could not reduce their quantities of peanuts or other seeds to oil. While European cultures used round wheels, Native Americans ground maize and other grains with a to-and-fro motion. After Europeans arrived, some Native Americans found the unfamiliar cooking oils and fats repulsive. In modern Latin America, with some exceptions, such as street fair food, fried tortillas, and pescado frito (fried fish), frying is not among the significant methods of cooking.
Foods, especially meats, were fried during the first century C.E. in many cultures around the Mediterranean. In Rome the term "frying," or frigere, had two meanings, first, the toasting of grains in a dry skillet, and second, cooking in oil. From the eighth to the fifteenth century, fats and frying played an essential role in Arab cooking. Sheep tail fat was a frying delicacy; books from this region and period tell how to extract, clarify, perfume, color, and store this fat, which was used to finish-fry boiled meats. During the same period, Lebanon, Andalusia, Maghreb, and Syria were known for their olive oil, which was exported to Iraq and Egypt.
Many European scholars writing about the food among the original inhabitants of the New World could not believe that these cultures did not have oil and did not fry. During the British colonial period, frying spread from Europe to the Americas and Africa. American colonists adapted frying with great frenzy, and in a Harper's Magazine story of 1866, Americans were said to be eating, "Fried ham, fried eggs, fried liver, fried steak, fried fish, fried oysters, fried potatoes, and last, but not least, fried hash." These preparations, as well as doughnuts, pancakes, and fritters, were served "morning, noon, and night," according to the magazine contributor, who thought that Americans consumed too much fried food.
If performed properly, deep-frying does not make food excessively greasy, because the moisture in the food repels the oil. The hot oil heats the water within the food, steaming it from the inside out; oil cannot go against the direction of this powerful flow because (due to its high temperature) the water vapor pushes the bubbles toward the surface. As long as the oil is hot enough and the food is not immersed in the oil for too long, oil penetration will be confined to the outer surface. However, if the food is cooked in the oil for too long, much of the water will be lost and the oil will begin to penetrate the food. The correct frying temperature depends on the thickness and type of food, but in most cases it lies between 175 and 190 °C (345–375 °F).
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