We’re big fans of deep-frying as a finishing technique after cooking sous vide. You don’t need to own a dedicated fryer. You just need a deep pot and the proper tools to insert and retrieve the food from a safe distance: long tongs, a slotted deep-fry spoon, or a frying basket. Follow the steps below for deep-frying success.
- Choose an appropriate frying oil, one that has a higher smoke point than the desired cooking temperature. Peanut, soybean, and sunflower oils are our favorites for frying at high temperatures. For a list of smoke and flash points of different oils, see page xxii of Modernist Cuisine at Home or 2·126 of Modernist Cuisine.
- Add the oil to a deep pot, but fill it no more than half full. Generally the walls of the pot should rise at least 10 cm / 4 in above the oil so that there are no spillovers. This also helps contain splattering and makes cleanup easier. Use enough oil so that you can submerge a small batch of food completely.
- Preheat the oil to the cooking temperature. Use a probe thermometer held upright in the center of the pan of oil to check the temperature (see the picture below). Our recipes call for frying at temperatures between 190 °C / 375 °F and 225 °C / 440 °F. That’s hot! Make sure your thermometer can display temperatures up to 260 °C / 500 °F. Frying, candy, and thermocouple thermometers usually have this much range. For consistent results, cook in small batches to minimize the cooling that occurs when you add food, and warm the food to room temperature before frying it. Allow the oil temperature to recover between batches.
- Pat food dry with paper towels before frying. The presence of external moisture on foods can cause oil to splatter violently. Don’t get too close to the oil. Use long tongs, a slotted deep-fry spoon, or a frying basket to insert and remove foods gently. Never use water, flour, or sugar to put out a grease fire. And do not try to carry a flaming pot outdoors. To suffocate a fire, use baking soda, a damp towel, or a fire extinguisher specifically designed for grease fires.
- Once food enters the hot oil, things happen fast. Just 30 seconds may be enough when you don’t want to cook the interior of the food further (for example, when deep-frying food after cooking it sous vide). Smaller pieces of food will cook faster and more evenly than larger pieces. For more on why size matters when deep-frying, see page 2·117 of Modernist Cuisine.
- Drain the cooked food on paper towels. Absorbing excess oil removes much of the fat associated with deep-frying. Most of the fat does not penetrate the food very far, coating only the surface. Simply blotting deep-fried food as soon as it emerges from the fryer will make it a lot less greasy. But take care that you don’t remove all of the oily coating. Oil is, after all, the source of much of the flavor, texture, and mouthfeel of deep-fried food.
Adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home and Modernist Cuisine