Once in a while advocates of crispy, fried foods like to forget about calories and weight loss and give in to finger-licking-good nibbles like tempura, onion rings, fries, Southern fried chicken, egg rolls, empanadas and doughnuts.
Once in a while these fried-food fans not only would like to be served these foods in restaurants or fast-food places, but would also like to cook them at home to the satisfaction of their family and guests.
Serious about deep-frying? Some really serious cooks have even gone through the expense of remodeling and customizing their kitchens to include a commercial gas stove. An example is the Wolf range, which has a model equipped with a full-size deep-frying cavity with basket. Those who don't care for the commercial look have opted for the sleek European cooktop combination, such as the Gaggenau New Dimension series, which also features an electric deep-fryer module.
The less-costly and simpler alternative is the portable or countertop deep-fryer. There are many types and sizes to buy, depending on the needs of the individual. But why bother with this electric appliance when you can fry almost anything on top of the stove using a deep, heavy saucepan, skillet or a wok?
Beware the Flash Point
Safety is the most important reason for buying a deep-fryer. Most units, except for mini-fryers that just have an on and off switch, have a thermostat for regulating oil temperature. Without this control, the oil can be overheated to its flash point (around 600 degrees) and burst into dangerous flames.
A portable deep fryer has finally arrived on the U.S. market after it was introduced in Europe about 2 1/2 years ago. Manufactured in Italy, the Fiorella Roto-Fryer from DeLonghi ($139) is certainly unique because of its spinning basket concept. It was designed by DeLonghi's Italian engineer, Piero Geranzzani, with the joint efforts of Franco Bernardelli. The patented nickeled steel basket is held at a slanted angle in the fryer cavity so it rotates on its axis. The advantage is that it uses half as much oil as an ordinary fryer requires.
"We are able to maintain the cooking temperature in better control because we use less oil," explained Edward Matthews, vice president of sales and marketing of DeLonghi America Inc. in New York. "We're also able to bring the temperature up faster or down faster and the controlled frying temperature can be maintained longer. Based from warranty cards we've gotten, consumers have written that their fried products are crispier and tastier because of less saturation of oil into the food."
When the rotating food in the spinning basket gets stuck, the basket reverses its rotation automatically. Styled in white with gray and red trim, the sturdy appliance has a lid that can be hermetically sealed. Even when the lid is closed, the frying basket has an insulated handle that can be lowered or lifted while frying. This prevents oil spattering or emission of greasy smells. Other features of the DeLonghi fryer include a 20-minute buzzer, four settings (as opposed to two in other new fryers on the market), a self-cleaning viewing window and a condensation-collecting container so moisture doesn't roll down when the lid is open.
Filtering Is Recommended
To prevent rapid decomposition of oil, it should be filtered to remove food particles (particularly fast-burning flour or crumbs). A paper filter can be placed on the bottom of the basket and the removed oil can be poured back into the fryer slowly. The unit also comes with an anti-odor filter inside its lid, which can be changed after approximately 30 uses.
For successful deep-frying, the manufacturer advises the following measures:
--Maintain the suggested temperature for each recipe. At too-low a temperature, fried food absorbs oil. At too-high temperature, a crust forms immediately while the interior remains underdone.
Food to be fried must be lowered into oil only when oil has reached desired temperature, that is when the warning light goes off.
--Do not overload the basket. This will cause a sudden drop in temperature and produce greasy and unevenly fried food.
--Check that food is cut thinly and uniformly. Too often food is not completely cooked despite its attractive appearance.
--Dip foods with high-water content (meat, fish and vegetables) into bread crumbs or flour, being careful to remove excess.
--Avoid leaving food in basket inside fryer for any length of time. Fatty vapor from oil causes food to become soggy.
The DeLonghi Roto-Fryer is available at selected Robinson's department stores, Chung's Appliance Center (3488 W. 8th St., Los Angeles) and by mid-October at Adray's.