What is the proper way to fry foods?

February 15, 2011


Dear Chef Ken,
Why on earth when I fry ANYTHING in Oil that has been dipped in flour, does the flour fall off and burn in the oil before the food is done? I end up having to pour the oil out and start again with the second batch. This seems to happen more with Olive Oil frying, which is why I prefer Peanut oil. I don’t start until my oil is smoking hot. This is especially a problem with eggplant & zucchini. Should I add cornmeal to my batter? Should I double dip or dip in milk, water or egg? ;(( Thanks for any advice! Shawna

No matter what you do, some of the batter/breading will fall off and burn in the bottom of the fryer, that is why in the restaurant we drain the fryer after each shift and strain the oil carefully before putting it back in the fryer.  The oil has four enemies: heat, moisture, light, and food.  You can’t eliminate all of them, but you can make it better for the oil if you understand this. 

 Heat – use only oil that can stand the heat.  Olive oil has a smoke point of about 300 degrees, which is not hot enough for frying.  So when you use olive oil you destroy it before it gets hot enough to fry.  Peanut oil has a very high smoke point, about 400.  That makes it a great oil for frying since that is done around 350.  The best oils for frying are formulated to stand the heat.  My advice, stay away from olive oil. 

Moisture – try to make sure that the things you fry don’t have a lot of excess moisture on the surface such as frost from the freezer.  You can’t eliminate moisture all together, just try to keep it off the surface of the food.

Light – keep your oils and fats in a dark place that is cool and dry.

Food – it’s the point of frying to put the food in the oil, right?  The important thing is to keep as much waste out of the fryer as possible.  The rule of thumb for breading or battering foods is “dry – wet – dry”.  This means that you need to start by dredging the food item into “dry” (like flour or seasoned flour or a pre-dust), then put it into “wet (like buttermilk, or batter, or even water), then coat it with “dry” (like seasoned flour, or cornmeal, or breadcrumbs).  If you want more coating, repeat the wet and dry.  This process is called paner in the French tradition.

 Hope this helps,

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