Virgin deep fryer
After cooking for over 50 years, I am about to start some deep frying. I got an Emeril Deep Fryer for a great price on Groupon so I decided to take the plunge. Any advice for the novice?
First, congratulations. Deep frying is simply awesome.
More oil is better. A larger amount of oil will hold its temperature even after you lower food into it much better than a smaller amount of oil, which will tend to drop in temperature much more. The more steady the temperature, the less yo-yoing of the oil's temperature you'll have and, therefore, a much better product you'll have. Accurate and steady oil temperature is extremely important to yield a great product.
Also, if that fryer doesn't measure the oil's temperature quickly and accurately you'll want to get a good, accurate thermometer with a quick response. I'd get one from Thermoworks as they make the best thermometers.
Remove the food from the fryer to a cooling rack set over a sheet pan with a lip and immediately season the food with whatever you're going to season it with: salt, pepper, etc.. Seasoning won't stick to a dry product. The product must be moist with oil and water in order for the seasoning to stick. Do not remove the product from the fryer to a stack of paper towels. The food will sit in it's own oil and go from being crispy to soggy very quickly.
With practice you'll learn when to remove your food from the fryer. Color (golden brown) can be a good indicator, but so can sound. When the hissing begins to subside, you'll want to be checking to see if it's ready to come out. Take one (whatever) out and cut it open or blow on it to cool it quickly and bite into it to check for doneness. The hissing comes from the water that's in the food turning to steam and trying to escape from the food into the oil and atmosphere. This steam coming out (for the most part) prevents the food from taking in oil. Once this steam stops coming out there is no more outward pressure to prevent oil from coming into the food and it begins to absorb the oil. This will yield a very greasy product. Practice makes perfect here. After just a short period of time deep frying and paying attention to when you should remove the food, you'll learn what to look and listen for so you'll know when to remove the food.
Keep your oil clean. Filter your oil regularly. Food left in the oil will simply burn the next time you fire up your deep fryer and ruin the oil and, thus, ruin your food.
Ensure that you have very good ventilation to the outside of your house. Deep frying creates lots of steam that carries with it tiny droplets of oil. Steam is not so bad, but this oil is is going to go somewhere. Better for it to go outside your house than land on everything in your kitchen.
However, SAFETY is paramount here. Since this steam carries with it flammable oil, that column of steam/oil streaming up from your fryer is flammable and if it catches on fire will create a column of fire and very possibly ignite your ventilation ducts too since they will be coated in oil and be venting out steam and oil as well. With proper frying practices a fire is very unlikely, but if it ever does happen immediately shut off your ventilation system then deal with the fire.
Please post some of what you end up frying. Once you master the two-stage french fry technique, you've arrived.
+1 on what 1POINT said. To that, I'd add that it's not necessary to use new oil for most things, except don't re-use oil you've used for fish or shellfish unless it's for other seafood. In fact, (clean) used oil often yields superior results because of a process known as saponification.
Also, don't assume all oils are the same--they vary widely in several respects, most notably smoke and flash points. Pick one and play with it. I like peanut oil, but if you can afford duck or goose fat, that's fantastic.
Finally, don't overload the reservoir with food. Start with cooking only a small number of pieces at a time, and keep your eye on the thermometer until you learn how much is too much.
Oh, and just to be safe, have a lid or cover handy to snuff it out if the oil ignites.