Published on August 5th, 2013 | by Laura Billingsley
How to fry food like a pro
Who can resist a fried onion ring, fried cheese curd, or even a fried pickle? The Iowa State Fair is full of such treats, as well as more unusual creations like fried Oreos and fried butter.
On Thursday the gates will open and the grease will flow and sizzle through another season, bringing sticky fingers and stuffed bellies to another round of fairgoers. That makes this the perfect time to learn some tips for successful frying.
Jeff Bruning is a co-owner at the High Life Lounge, where the menu features fried foods like bacon-wrapped Tater Tots, pickles and chicken gizzards. He is a veteran of a number of kitchens and said working the fryer is often one of the first positions a cook learns.
“A lot of times with fried food, you know when it’s done because it floats. It’s fairly straightforward,” he said.
However, frying can also be an art, which is why it’s not left to the rookies at the High Life Lounge. The restaurant often puts senior employees on the fry station because it can be intense work, according to Bruning.
One of the first lessons to learn with frying is that water is your enemy. “If you’re going to cook something in a fryer you want to have it dry,” Bruning said. “That’s why you bread things to create a barrier.”
For foods that aren’t naturally dry, such as pickles or mushrooms, a breading or coating is essential. If a lot of unbreaded food with a high water content meets the oil, you could be dealing with a dangerous mess. For instance, Bruning said never dump fries in a fryer right after rinsing them, because when the water hits the oil it instantly turns to steam and could boil over.
For most frying at the High Life Lounge, soybean oil is heated to about 370-375 degrees. Bruning said the type of oil used definitely matters. Different oils have different smoke points and can impart various flavors to food. It’s also important to remember that frying something with strong flavors, such as fish, will pass on those flavors to the oil and everything cooked in it afterward.
The amount of time the food stays in the oil depends on what is being fried. Bruning said making good french fries can be tricky, requiring a two-step process for best results. After cutting, washing and drying the potatoes, blanch them in a fryer at 350 degrees, which cooks the fries part way. They need a rest before being fried again just before serving for maximum crispiness.
Bruning stressed that frying food can be dangerous. Cooks must be cautious around hot oil, and water should never be used on a fire. Keeping a fire extinguisher close by is a good idea. For home cooks, a FryDaddy or similar device makes frying easier, and pan frying can be a simpler (and less messy) option than deep frying. But any type of frying is likely to leave its mark in a home.
Luckily, the State Fair and the High Life Lounge offer plenty of options for those who would rather leave the frying to the professionals.
High Life Lounge
Find it: 200 S.W. Second St.
Kitchen hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday