Deep fat frying is a cooking method that involves immersing food in heated fat. This is generally considered one of the faster ways of cooking. Many different kinds of food are often prepared this way, including French fries and many fried chicken recipes—some people even deep fry entire turkeys. Deep fat frying is a staple method of the fast food industry, and it has sometimes been attacked as an unhealthy way of preparing food.
Many chefs argue that deep frying isn’t actually as unhealthy as critics suggest. When the temperature is high enough, the food is cooked very quickly, and the moisture inside the food can actually keep the fat from being absorbed. When deep fat frying is handled properly, the foods are actually steamed in their own moisture, leaving a crunchy crust on the outside and a moist interior.
Many cultures worldwide have used deep fat frying over the centuries, and it’s not entirely clear where it originated. Researchers now believe that some very old recipes that call for boiling lard are actually describing the process of deep fat frying. The oldest known uses of the term "deep fried" are in the 1930s, but historians are certain the technique is much older than that.
Some people do their deep frying in a special pan, and others prefer a standalone deep fat fryer. Most chefs recommend the standalone fryers because they are more efficient and specialized. Some people would rather use a pan, because the standalone fryers can be a cosmetic eyesore, and they take up a fairly significant amount of counter space.
Deep fat frying can be very dangerous. When hot oil spills, it can cause terrible injuries. Most experts recommend that consumers take very special care of the placement of their deep fat fryer. Many commercial deep fat fryers have several special safety-oriented features, including locking lids and systems that will automatically turn the fryer off if the oil is overheating.
In the early days, most deep fat frying was done with lard and other animal fats. Now many chefs prefer to use vegetable oils because they're supposed to be healthier. The typical temperature used for deep fat frying is 300 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (148 to 204 degrees Celsius). The ideal temperature is determined based on what kind of oil or fat is being used and what kind of food is being cooked.