It's believed by experts that the technique of frying foods originated in the Middle East. The date is uncertain, but it's generally thought to be around two millennia before the birth of Jesus Christ. Frying is therefore age old, and involves the process of bringing oil or fat to a melting point. The reason fat or oils is used, is because they can reach such a high heat. Unlike with boiling water, fat or oil becomes so hot that they can sear the outside of foods. This keeps the moisture and flavour in the food, but also leaves the outside crisp. A criticism of frying food is from the health lobby, which maintain that frying lowers the nutrient value of food, and covers it in unhealthy fats, which can clog the arteries of the heart.

Types Of Frying

There are numerous frying techniques, which vary country to country. The most popular in the west are as follows,

  • Sautéing
    • A cook will place a small amount of fat to layer the surface of a frying pan. With a high heat, usually with flipping the food, to quickly brown the food, but keeps the moisture and avoids absorbing the fat.
  • Stir frying
    • Just like with sautéing, only a small amount of oil is used. A technique which is used with woks, the food is stirred continually, so that it does not brown or burn. But, will make sure all the food is covered in any sauce added. In Chinese cooking there are numerous techniques with varying speeds of execution, heat used, and tossing done.
  • Shallow frying
    • Another style of pan frying, this time using more oil or fat. Whatever food is placed in the pan should be covered half way up with oil. A quick and less fussy way of achieving a similar result to deep frying.
  • Deep frying
    • This takes shallow frying to the extreme. The food is completely immersed in the oil. Either a deep pan can be placed over a cooking hob, or a stand alone deep fat fryer can be used. The heat should be around 300 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The pan or deep fat fryer should not be more than half way filled with oil.

There we have it, four of the most popular way to fry food. You may have noticed that as the list progresses the less healthy it becomes. Sautéing and stir frying can involve food like noodles, vegetables, alongside meats like steak and pork chops. Whereas deep frying involves all the heart cloggers, such as chips, doughnuts, fish and chicken in batter.

Types of Fat and Oils

The primary functions of cooking oils and fats are four fold, they help,

  1. Lubricate the pans surface.
  2. Improve the friction between the pan and the food.
  3. Lowers the time is takes to cook the food.
  4. Provides flavour.

Cooking oil is usually the purified extract of plants, whereas cooking fat is usually the purified extract of animals. There are many types of vegetable oil, some you may be familiar with, others not so.

Below are some of the most popular types of cooking oil,

  • Canola
  • Coconut
  • Corn
  • Cotton
  • Grape
  • Olive Oil - Extra Virgin, Virgin, Refined, Extra Light.
  • Peanut
  • Pumpkin
  • Safflower
  • Sesame
  • Soybean
  • Sunflower

Cooking fat can be classified into two characteristics. Those made from dairy, and those from meat.

The most common types of dairy cooking fats are,

  • Butter - churned from milk or cream.
  • Ghee - made from simmering butter.
  • Margarine - made from butter and vegetable oils (sometimes animal fat)

When it comes to animal fat, any kind of meat cooked produces fat which can be stored and cooked with later.

Below are some popular animal fats to cook with,

  • Beef
  • Duck
  • Goose
  • Lard - pig fat

The Health Benefits

The healthy option is to cook with vegetable oils, they contain either Omega-3 "linolenic" oils, Omega-6 "linoleic" oils or Omega-9 "monounsaturated" oils. The Omega fatty acids help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. But, you do need to research how the various oils should be cooked. Some vegetable oils like soy need to be served cold, otherwise they lose their omega-component. Whereas oils like sunflower can be cooked to 210 F, and sesame to 320 F.

Cooking fats like butter contain trans fatty acids, which can be either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated. Research has indicated that the continued consumption of trans fatty acids poses an elevated risk of coronary heart disease. The problem is that they increase levels of LDL cholesterol and lower levels of HDL cholesterol. LDL is the cholesterol you need to avoid, high levels of LDL can indicate cardiovascular disease.

Pans for Frying

Historically, cast iron was the material most commonly used in the construction of frying pans. However, it's an expensive material, and there are cheaper metals to construct pans out of. Four of the most common metals used are,

  • Aluminum, and anodised aluminum. Does not rust and is light.
  • Cast iron. Can withstand high temperatures, slow to heat.
  • Copper. The best for conductivity and even heating.
  • Stainless steel, sometimes clad with copper or aluminum. Do not rust or scratch easily. But provide poor heat conduction.

Some pans also come with a Teflon coating, which makes the pans surface non-stick. This is seen as a gimmick by professional chefs however, so you can only expect to see it on cheaper home use pans. Like with cookers, microwaves, toasters, or any household appliance, the more expensive the model, the more superior metals and components are used in it's construction.

A frying pan can also be referred to as a 'skillet'. The most common characteristics of a frying pan are a large even cooking surface and low sides. Below are some different styles of frying pans,

  • A typical frying pan, with a large flat cooking surface and shallow sides. The size and angle of the handle varies.
    • resource for teflon covered pans
  • A grill pan, contains ribs on the surface for cooking meats like Steak.
    • resource for a grill pan
  • A wok, contained a large bowl shape, with high sides, which make it ideal for stir frying and flipping food in the air. They can also be used for shallow and deep frying, and are a very versatile pan to fry with,
    • resource for woks.
  • A chip pan, used for deep frying chips, battered fish and chicken etc. Comes with a plated basket, which should feature a hook for easy draining.
    • resource for deep fat frying

Deep Fat Fryers

Deep frying is the process of completely submerging food in boiling hot fat and oil. If cooked correctly it's not actually an unhealthy way of eating. Certainly not as bad as many will lead you to believe. The key is having the oil hot enough, and not cooking the food for too long. This way the water within the food will repel the oil. The food will be steamed cooked, and the oil will not penetrate the inside. If the oil does penetrate the food, it will become greasy, and therefore unhealthy. The ideal cooking temperature for most foods is around 185 °C.

There are two popular techniques to deep fry food. One is the use of a traditional chip pan, which is placed on a cooking hob. The other is a stand alone deep fat fryer. It's worth noting that cooking oil poses a fire risk. Because, it's a flammable material, if you do heat the oil too high it will ignite. Therefore, the chip pan is at a disadvantage to a quality deep fat fryer. The chip pan has been the cause of many household fires, because, it provides little in the way of safety features, and people do not realise they have heated the oil too high.

Therefore, the primary advantage of an appliance, such as deep fat fryer, is their safety features. It's worth noting that not all deep fat fryers come with safety features, so you need to check the specification of a deep fat fryer before buying. Below are some of the features which can be included,

  • Safety locking lid, avoids fat from splashing out.
  • Cool wall, so you can safely touch the outside of the device.
  • Safety cut out, the fryer will turn off if the oil is over heating.
  • Viewing window, so you can view the food without removing the lid.

Some extra characteristics which make deep fat fryers superior to a chip pan,

  • Ready to use indicator, so you know when the oil is hot enough.
  • Larger basket capacity, you will not have to cook two batches of chips.
  • Frees up a hob whilst cooking an extensive family meal.
  • Drainage hose, easily remove old oil, less messy job than emptying a chip pan.
  • Rotating basket, economic, this technique requires 50% less oil.
  • Digital timer to cook food to perfection.

Some disadvantage include, the space the fryer will take up on a kitchen work top. If you have a small kitchen, a chip pan will free up some much needed space. The aesthetics of a deep fat fryer may also pose a problem. It could look out of place in a ultra modern or a rustic kitchen. But on terms of use, it's quite clear the deep fat fryer wins hands down, especially if it's compared to a chip pan.

What you should consider is where to place a deep fat fryer. If the worst case scenario occurred, and it's tipped over whilst in use, then consider the placement where it would do the least amount of damage. Also, it's worth making sure the power cable cannot get snagged, or yanked by mistake. Therefore, take the time to consider where to place your fryer on a work top.

The dimensions are also important, it's worth making sure your fryer is sturdy. Thin and tall fryers for example, whilst taking up less space, can easily be tipped over. A fryer with wide and deep dimensions should lessen the possibility of this occurring. Finally, a fryer should contain some rubber feet, then it cannot easily slip or be pushed off a work top.

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 Deep Fried Mars Bar
 Egg and Spring Rolls
 Fish and Chips
 French fries
 Fried Chicken (US)
 Fried Rice
 Onion Rings

 Deep Frying

 Beginners Tips
 Health Issues
 Oils to Deep Fry Wth
 Re-using Oil

 Stir Frying

 Beginners Tips

 Frying Pans

 Beginners Guide