Frying foods is a culinary tradition spanning countless international cuisines, each with its own unique twist. From Louisiana style fish fry, tempura, and Indonesian kaki lima, to Indian pakoras, Middle Eastern falafel, and Italian arancini, whatever your personal taste, there’s a wealth of hot, crispy choice for everyone!
Olive oil might not be everyone’s first port of call when filling up the fryer but now’s the time for a rethink. We’re here to help guide you towards this delicious discovery.
What is Deep Frying?
Deep frying is a cooking method where foods are submerged in hot oil, typically at temperatures ranging from 165°C to 190°C.
Deep frying does two things at once: it vaporises water molecules, which is what creates the bubbles you need to make a light, crispy batter, while simultaneously producing the Maillard reaction - that’s the browning that occurs when sugars and proteins are heated, like a steak searing in a hot pan.
Because of the drawing out of water that occurs when food hits hot oil, it is often necessary to create an insulating barrier in the form of batter or breadcrumbs to prevent food becoming tough and stringy.
This is what creates the delicious combination of a crunchy, golden exterior with a tender, steamed filling.
What is the Best Oil for Deep Frying?
The ideal oil for deep frying should have a high smoke point, a neutral flavour and remain stable at high temperatures.
Oils like sunflower, peanut oil, and rapeseed are popular choices because they are easily accessible, have high smoke points, and don't break the bank.
However, there's an international trend, especially in Mediterranean cultures, of using olive oil for frying, and it’s something we definitely recommend you explore.
What is Smoke Point, and Why Does It Matter?
The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which it starts to produce smoke. Once an oil reaches its smoke point, it can start to break down, losing its nutritional properties and producing harmful compounds.
Oil that has surpassed its smoke point can give food an unpleasant taste. When choosing an oil for deep frying, a high smoke point is essential so the oil remains stable and safe throughout the cooking process and so your food tastes good.
Oil temperature is key to deep frying. If your oil isn’t hot enough, it won’t vaporise water molecules effectively, which will lead to soggy, greasy-tasting food.
Conversely, if the oil is too hot, you risk the exterior of your food burning while the centre remains raw. It’s definitely worth investing in a food thermometer to ensure accuracy.
Is it A Myth that You Can't Fry with Olive Oil?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is yeeeeeeees!
It's a myth that olive oil isn’t suitable for frying. While extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point around 190-210°C (375-410°F), regular olive oil, often a blend of cold-pressed and processed oils, has a smoke point ranging from 210-240°C (410-465°F), making it very suitable for frying.
Deep frying with olive oil has a long tradition in Mediterranean cuisine, from Spanish churros to Italian fritto misto. You need only taste them once to know our European friends are on to something special!
Which Olive Oils are Best for Deep Frying?
For deep frying, it's best to opt for regular or 'pure' olive oil over extra virgin varieties. Again, this is due to the higher smoke point, which can withstand the high temperatures of frying without the oil degrading.
Brands like Nunez De Prado Organic Olive Oil or Oro del Desierto Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, both available at Sous Chef, are fine examples that can be used for frying to give your dishes a unique flavour.
Unusual ideas for deep-frying
- Croquettes are a classic, but why not try giving them a sweet makeover with our chocolate and raspberry version.
- Bao’s deep fried daikon cake is a recipe born from a delicious mistake!
- Perfect for the food waste-conscious, deep fried marinated banana peels make for a moreish vegan “bacon” alternative.
- Olives! Try deep frying stuffed and breadcrumbed olives in their own oil for full circle synergy!
- Deep-Fried Ice Cream is a revelation! Use olive oil to quickly deep dry battered ice cream scoops for a frozen dessert served in its own hot and crispy shell.
While olive oil might not be the traditional choice for frying in the UK, it’s a versatile, flavourful option that’s worth a try.
Whether you're recreating classic British dishes or venturing into the world of international fried delicacies, olive oil might just become your new favourite frying companion. Reach for the olive oil next time you want to get your sizzle on to create crispy, golden, olive oil-infused delights!
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