November 26th, 2013
08:00 AM ET
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America's Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen full-time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most-foolproof recipe. America’s Test Kitchen's online cooking school is based on nearly 20 years of test kitchen work in our own facility, on the recipes created for Cook’s Illustrated magazine, and on our two public television cooking shows.

Perhaps you tried a deep-fried recipe once and was disappointed at the greasy/burned/undercooked/otherwise unappetizing results, or maybe frying has always seemed like an intimidating prospect. Don't lose hope.

We assure you that hot, crisp, golden, non-greasy, deliciously fried food is achievable by any level of cook armed with the right knowledge. Below we've answered eight common frying conundrums. Here's your opportunity to give frying a go.

We also recommend you read our previous post on frying basics, essential tools and good practices.

All linked products are the test kitchen's recommendations for equipment.

Our frying wisdom is distilled from over 20 years' worth of recipe development; the information below is adapted from our newest book, "The Cooking School Cookbook," a comprehensive reference for every home cook.

I don’t have peanut oil; can I use canola oil?
We wouldn’t recommend it. When we tested frying in various types of oils, our tasters found that canola oil leaves food with a stale, slightly fishy flavor and aroma when used for frying. Don’t use olive oil either. Its high cost, low smoke point and distinctive flavor make it a poor choice for frying. If you don’t have peanut oil on hand use vegetable oil.

Is there any way to minimize the messy splattering?
The oil will sputter when frying, but you can minimize the mess it makes on your stovetop by using a splatter screen. These flat mesh disks fit over pots like a lid and catch large splatters while still letting steam escape. We think it’s a worthwhile, inexpensive investment since they’re good for not only deep frying but also shallow frying and many sautéing recipes.

My fried food always comes out greasy.
If you are crowding the food into the pot, the oil temperature will plummet, resulting in greasy food. Make sure to fry in batches and give the food plenty of room.

My food is pale and soggy.
The temperature of the oil is too low, which means the food retains more moisture than it should, thus you’ll have soggy results. Make sure to bring your oil up to the temperature called for in the recipe.

My food is burnt on the outside and underdone on the inside.
Your oil is probably too hot; make sure you are using an accurate thermometer and following the temperature called for in the recipe. If you find the oil is too hot, move the pot off the heat and let the temperature drop before you proceed with adding the food. Also make sure you are cutting the food to the size called for in the recipe.

The oil is smoking; what do I do?
This is a sign that the oil is overheated and starting to break down. Remove the pot from the heat until the oil cools to the correct temperature. It’s important to do this at the first sign of smoke, as a significant amount of smoke will impart an off-flavor to foods, in which case the oil should be discarded.

I don’t want to throw out all this oil; can I reuse it?
As long as you weren’t frying fish, which will impart a distinct flavor to the oil and so should be discarded, frying oil can be reused several times before its smoke point becomes too low and its flavor too degraded (at that point, it should be thrown out). To save oil for another use, let the oil cool to room temperature, strain it to remove any stray bits of food, then store in the freezer to prevent rancidity.

Could I use shortening or lard for the frying oil?
Lard and shortening make great fries, but we assume most home cooks won’t want to use these saturated fat-laden products. However, we have found that adding just 1/4 cup bacon fat to your pot with the peanut or vegetable oil will lend the food a great mildly meaty flavor that you just can’t get when you use oil alone.

More from America's Test Kitchen:
"Just About Any Food Can Be Fried," according to Bridget Lancaster
Mmmm, Doughnuts
Fried Chicken 101

More about frying:
Master the stuffpuppy
8 hot pieces of advice for frying at home
Overcome your fear of frying
Deep-fried indoor turkey – for science
– All our best Thanksgiving advice

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. NotYoDaddy

    Eat Mooooooore Chicken!

    The Cow

    December 8, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  2. lat45north

    the first consideration is whether to do it or not. I am pretty sure America's Test Kitchen is safe – good ventilation, trained chefs with appropriate clothing especially shoes and absolutely no small children anywhere near.

    December 8, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • bobpitt

      So when are we getting the good advise? because all the tips are already well known.... Oh? is just so they can fill the space with something...?

      December 8, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
  3. Thinking things through

    For deep frying, I use safflower oil. I don't think this method of cookery is particularly healthy, so I only deep fry on rarity. (But I do my best to make that meal count!)

    November 27, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
  4. Weeds

    Fry a little love for me...

    November 26, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
  5. Jdizzle McCrappedMyPants ♫♫

    How much water should I throw on a grease fire?

    November 26, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • Carn E. Vore

      All of it.

      November 29, 2013 at 11:29 am |
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