8 Tips for Frying Safely this Chanukah
There is no more unanimously agreed upon guilty pleasure than fried food! Nothing like a basket of perfectly gooey mozzarella sticks... or french fries... or corn dogs... or funnel cakes... What were we talking about?
Oh, right! Crispy on the outside and just right on the inside, it's no wonder we can't get enough of deep fried deliciousness. Frying is pretty much a fool-proof way to cook just about anything with great results, but it can be extremely dangerous if you're not careful. As we approach Chanukah, latkes and donuts are on many of our menus among other deep fried goodies. Please keep these frying safety guidelines in mind so your holiday can be just as safe as it will be delicious!
Use the right oil. Starting with the right oil is the first step to safe frying. Make sure you're using a neutral oil with a high smoke point, such as vegetable oil (400°F-450°F), NOT extra virgin olive oil (325°F-375°F) or coconut oil (350°F). A smoke point is the temperature at which oil goes beyond shimmering and begins to smoke, hence the name.
In addition to the smoke billowing up, once at this point, the oil begins to take on an undesirable burnt odor and flavor. But irritated eyes and a smelly kitchen are not the worst of it. As oil goes past its smoke point, it degrades steadily and begins to release ignitable gases which are certainly not safe hovering over an open flame. If these gases ignite, they'll have all the grease you're working with to feed the flames.
Keep an eye on the temperature. Keep a thermometer handy to make sure you're staying within the ideal temperature allowance zone and adjust your flame accordingly. Bear in mind, as cold food is dropped into the hot oil, it will drop the temperature as well. Cool oil will result in soggy, oily food. Bring it back up to proper temperature for evenly fried, crispy food. If your oil begins to smoke, remove it from heat immediately and allow it to cool down.
Know how to handle flames. If your oil catches fire, do NOT splash water onto it! I know, in theory water puts out fire, but when dealing with oil, this will cause the oil to spatter and the flames to spread. Instead, carefully smother the flames with the pot lid or even a large baking sheet. Fire feeds on oxygen and smothering it this way cuts off the oxygen supply and kills the fire. Be sure to have these supplies readily available before you start so you can act swiftly if the need arises.
Stay vigilant. NEVER leave a pan or pot of hot oil unattended! This seems like a no brainer but it must be said. It takes only seconds for a kitchen accident to happen and frying is not a distraction-friendly cooking method. Prepare all of your ingredients before you begin, if possible, and have all your tools handy. You wouldn't want to fish around your drawers looking for a slotted spoon while your food is burning to a crisp. Trust me; I've been there. It's no fun. Prepare a tray with a rack or paper towels on which to place your fried food when it comes out of the oil.
Manage your space. Turn all pot and pan handles inward to avoid knocking over a pan or pot of hot oil, and keep small children away from the oil and the general area where it's being used. Aside from getting into their own trouble, they can get in the way when trying to act quickly in case of emergency. Also, never fill your pan or pot more than two thirds full with oil. This allows space for the food that will be fried without risking spill-over and in turn, a fire.
Utilize your tools. Hot oil can be quite intimidating, and you might be tempted to toss in food from afar in an attempt to maintain the most distance between it and yourself. However, this will actually increase your risk of getting hurt. Always lower your food into the oil gently with the help of a slotted spoon or tongs to avoid splashing. Very hot oil can cause very serious burns very quickly. Wet foods will cause more spattering and bubbling of the oil, so take extra precaution.
Know proper burn care. As careful as one may be, sometimes burns are beyond our control. In the event of a burn, immediately immerse the burned area in cool water for at least 10 minutes. Applying ice might sound like a better course of action, but it slows the blood flow to the area and hinders the healing process. An anti-inflammatory painkiller like Motrin or Advil can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain, especially if taken immediately after the burn occurs.
Aloe vera gel can be applied to soothe the area after cooling with water. I keep an aloe plant on my kitchen windowsill just in case of emergency. They're easy to care for and pretty to look at too!
Be disposal smart. After all the frying is said and done, you want to cool your oil down to room temperature and dispose of it properly. Do NOT pour oil down your drain! Pouring it down any drain in your home is a bad idea as the grease can solidify in your pipes and cause serious damage. Instead, pour the cooled oil into a non-recyclable container and dispose with the trash. Doubled up zip top bags get the job done too, just make sure to seal each one so they don't leak.
That's all! Now that you're equipped with invaluable safety information to tackle this very fun and very delicious cooking project, there's only one question left to ask. What'll you fry first?
Happy Chanukah from my deep fryer to yours!