Shallow frying is cooking an item in a pan in a sufficient amount of oil, generally enough to cover the bottom of the pan and come up a bit on the sides, until a crunchy, golden crust is formed. It does not mean that what you fry becomes soggy or greasy. If you choose your oil correctly and then cook the item well, you will end up with something delicious. Obviously, shallow frying will be relatively higher in calories than something steamed, stir fried or sautéed (sautéing and stir frying use a tablespoon or two of oil max) because you will be using more ingredients, namely more oil and, usually, batter. So, keep that in mind.
Frying tip 1: Buy yourself the right tools. A decent frying pan is essential as is a splatter guard screen. The pan should be wide and have high sides so that you can pour in enough oil. I stick with steel and keep it simple. If you can visit a restaurant supply shop, great. Often, they’ll have great prices and usually, a fantastic selection. The splatter screen guard can be as inexpensive as you like. I bought mine 20 years ago at K-Mart.
Frying tip 2: Ensure you’ve got the right oil for frying. Olive oil has a low smoke point and should not be used for pan frying (for a quicker processes such as sautéing, stir frying). Instead, use another vegetable or seed oil to withstand the longer cooking times. Coconut oil is great and don’t worry, it will not impart a coconutty flavour to your food. I often mix coconut oil with sunflower oil.
Frying tip 3: To minimise splatter, once you’ve poured in your oil into the pan, sprinkle a good pinch of salt before the oil gets hot.
Frying tip 4: To know whether an oil is hot enough for properly frying any battered vegetable/tofu/tempeh/seitan, use a wooden chopstick. Place one end of the chopstick in the oil. If you see bubbles quickly forming and coming up the sides of the chopsticks, the oil is hot enough. It is important to get the oil hot enough for frying, otherwise too much oil is absorbed by the batter you’re trying to fry, making your dish heavy and fatty.
Frying tip 5: If you’re frying something battered, you will know it’s time to flip it when you see bubbles appear on the outside and in the middle of the batter. When golden and crispy, remove from the pan and place on a cooling rack.
Frying tip 6: Rather than placing your fried items in a plate and on kitchen roll, use a cooling rack, like you would for cookies and cakes, or if you don’t have an alternative, use the metal rack from the inside of your kitchen oven or countertop toaster-oven. Placing fried items on a cooling rack will allow the excess oil to drip and no condensation to form. Your fritters will remain crispy. Dab away any excess oil or flip the fritter to let it drip down.
Frying tip 7: Serving the fried item immediately is best for flavour, but sometimes you can’t. So, follow the above steps and set aside. Then, heat the oven to 200C and reheat for a 5-7 minutes (depending on the item). Watch that this might make the item a bit drier than you might wish, so keep it in mind.
After frying: Do not pour used cooking oil down the drain. You can reuse it, recycle it, donate it and many more things or, ultimately, dispose of cooking oil in the rubbish. Here are two interesting links: WikiHow and Ask the Food Lab.
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