Fact: Fried food is delicious, which has a lot to do with the air fryer’s recent surge in popularity. But when only true deep frying will do, here’s your guide to making fried food like a pro.
Great things can come from test batches in home kitchens. Take for example, crunchy, gooey, deep-fried-and-oversized mozzarella sticks. For Jimmy Warren, Executive Chef, along with his business partner and CEO, Matt Gallira, of Big Mozz, their wildly successful fresh pulled mozzarella pop-up turned giant mozzarella stick empire began at home. “We started with the concept of fresh pulled mozzarella,” says Warren, “but people would come up to our stall and ask, ‘Hey, do you make mozzarella sticks?’ So we took a straightforward recipe, and really good mozzarella, and fried it up one day in (Gallira’s) apartment, and…it blew up.”
“Blew up,” as in, “became quite successful,” not “blew the kitchen into smithereens.” Let this give you confidence.
Believe You Can Fry
So, which of the following best represents the reason that you have never attempted a good, old-fashioned deep fry in your own home, mozzarella sticks, or otherwise, assuming it’s not fear of Big Mozz energy? Is it:
- Lack of space in your counter/cabinet/heart for hosting yet another small appliance in your life for only semi-occasional use?
- Lack of funds toward the possession of a restaurant grade, ventilation hood system to circumvent the effects of in-home deep frying?
- Lack of confidence in your gym membership to circumvent the personal effects of in-home deep frying?
If you’ve selected points one or two, we’ll get to all that. If it’s the third…look, I’m not trying to stand up here and tell you that deep fried goods are necessarily healthy. But I will tell you that this has more to do with the type of naughty items that typically get the boiling oil punishment—cheese, starch, batter—than the process of deep frying itself. When done correctly, the goal is for the oil not to penetrate the food itself very deeply, instead leaving a crackling golden exterior where most of the oil drains off. But also please don’t boil your cooking oil. That’s way too hot. We’ll get to that. Take it from one of the guys who turned an at-home, deep-frying experiment into a business.
Cuisinart Nonstick 4-Qt Saucepan with Lid, $27.92 on Amazon
Even fancy pans can enjoy a good deep-fry.
Polder Stainless Steel Candy Thermometer
If you want to avoid a mess, don't guess, know what temperature you're working with.
Equipment – Pots and Slots
Deep frying does depend upon having the correct equipment and goods on hand, but these are not limited to any extra special appliances or products. “The oil, the pot, and the thermometer are the three things you need” advises Warren. “Maybe a spider or a slotted spoon. And that’s pretty much it.” (See? Deep-fried glory is already within your grasp!)
“The bigger the pot, the more oil you’ll need,” he explained, “but it’s going to be easier to fry and regulate the temperature as you drop cold things into a hot oil. The best thermometer is a candy thermometer that goes up to about 450 or 500 degrees and clips to the side of the pot so you’re not wrestling with the thermometer in the middle of the process.”
A large pasta pot will do the trick, but even the smallest saucepan can churn out delightful sweet or savory fritters if that’s what you’re working with. All you need is enough room for whatever you are frying to have its own personal space, like the equivalent of the amount of space between people that would make you comfortable in a hot tub full of strangers. Work in batches when necessary. (Also applies to hot-tubbing.)
Try our Crispy Corn Fritters recipe.
Supplies – Rolling in the Deep
Resist the urge to try to make your deep frying process more “healthy” by employing the world’s go-to healthy fat, extra virgin olive oil, which fails on the two cardinal rules of frying oils, neutral flavor and high smoke point.
10 Common TypesThe Ultimate Guide to Cooking Oils“The best thing I find is using canola or vegetable oil,” says Warren. “It’s cheap, easy to use, easy to find, and it has a really high smoke point so you won’t smoke up your house.” Especially important if the industrial hood as described above is out of reach, but maybe turn your overhead stove fan on, just in case.
“You want something that’s not going to leave much flavor, so it doesn’t affect what you’re cooking. Peanut oil is also good but it can enhance or change the taste of your food, and make it a bit more savory.” You will need enough oil to fill whatever pot you are using about a third of the way, to account for displacement once you put your items in for frying, and enough room left over so that the oil doesn’t sizzle over the edge.
Try our French Fries recipe.
The Coating – Bread and Batter
Just about anything can be deep fried with or without a coating—Deep fried bacon? Dreams come true!—though lean or skinless proteins fare a great deal better with some assistance. As does cheese, the worthiest cause for frying. (Fight me.)
Foodstuffs in their birthday suits should just be cut to a uniform size and patted completely dry with a paper towel before jumping in the fry to promote maximum crackle.
When it comes to coating, “there are two ways that work for most purposes,” according to Warren. “‘Dredging’ is what we do for our mozzarella sticks. You pre-flour the item—same for fried chicken—then ‘dredge’ it in liquid egg, and then place it into your breading mixture. Breading is where you get most of the seasoning, so you’ll want to season it really thoroughly.”
Warren employs traditional breadcrumbs for the sticks at Big Mozz, but panko, cornmeal, corn flakes, etc. can also be put to work here. (Or Doritos, or Chex, or Flamin’ Hot Cheetos…) “The other way is a batter,” says Warren. “Just a simple flour and water mixture, and you can fry it just like that, or you can use the batter as the liquid egg (in the breading method) and then dip into breadcrumbs.”
Pro Tip: When breading items use one hand to move pieces from dry ingredients into wet ingredients, and the other hand to handle the breaded items so that you keep one hand moderately clean and functional. (Especially for paging through your favorite helpful Chowhound article.)
Try our Easy Buttermilk Fried Chicken recipe .
Method – For Sizzle
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Oil should always be added at room temperature into a cold pan and then heated over medium-high, using the candy or fat thermometer to monitor progress and get to the desired temperature. Not setting off your smoke alarm or otherwise creating an adversarial relationship with your neighbors and landlord is going to necessitate the thermometer for the full, deep-fry monty.
You want the items to sizzle furiously immediately upon entering the oil. Not-hot-enough oil creates a gummy, saturated, greasy outcome. Too-hot oil means that the outside will go from golden to burnt before the inside of what you’re cooking gets a single degree above straight-up cold. Deep frying chicken without a thermometer? What you’re going for is extra crispy, and without a thermometer, that’s extra scary.
And a final trip from the mozzarella stick master? “Before you even begin, just make sure that your kitchen is really set up and everything is really close to that pot so that you’re not dragging oil around your kitchen,” offers Warren. “When you take things out, you want to put it onto a plate with napkins to drain off excess oil, or a sheet pan with a wire rack on it. As one of my sous chefs put it, ‘always know where your landing pad is.’”
The Fry’s The Limit
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After months of fine tuning we present one of the cheesiest sandwich collaborations the world has ever seen! 🧀 The “Watch the Throne” carrozza sandwich by @cheezus_la and @bigmozz. Stuffed with premium mozzarella and breaded with seasoned breadcrumbs, this sandwich is fried to perfection. An additional meat option will also be available. Catch this delicious sandwich exclusively @smorgasburgla on Oct.6th & Oct.13th while supplies last. Who wants one?! 📸: @imfilming
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As for whether anything can be deep fried? “Well, one thing we ended up doing was a collaboration with Cheezus, and we did mozzarella inside of a big thick bread, and then we breaded the whole thing in our breading mixture and fried it. It’s a grilled cheese bomb. It’s basically a Monte Cristo sandwich on steroids.”
Maybe you’ll want to just begin with some simple wings or zucchini chips, but let deep-fried grilled cheese give you #goals.
Header photo courtesy of Big Mozz.