I don't deep fry things often - it's not the sort of thing I'd like to get in the habit of doing regularly. But, just occasionally, when you can produce something as amazing as beer battered halloumi, vegetable tempura, or crispy battered mushrooms, it's totally worth it.
A lot of people are a bit afraid of deep frying at home without a dedicated fryer, but as long as you take a few precautions, it can be pretty easy. Here are my top tips for deep frying safely at home, without having to fork out for a fryer that you may well only use a few times a year.
1. Be prepared
It's no use trying to get stuck in with the frying if you're not prepared - it's not fun trying to fish a slotted spoon out of the drawer with hands covered in batter, or attempting to tear off a piece of kitchen roll with a piece of hot food balanced on a spoon. Be prepared, and have everything laid out neatly before you start, and you'll be much less likely to make any dangerous errors.
- - A large, deep pan for frying. I tend to use a very deep frying pan (this one, which is pretty much my favourite pan ever), or sometimes a big, deep wok.
- - Oil! You don't need to completely fill the pan - just an inch or two in the bottom is plenty. Make sure the pan is no more than a third full. If the oil level drops a little between batches, just top it up and allow it to heat up again before adding the next batch of food.
- - A bowl of your favourite batter (I like beer batter!)
- - A slotted spoon or spatula, to lift the food from the oil.
- - A plate lined with a couple of sheets of kitchen paper, to drain any excess oil from the food once it's been fried.
Get everything ready and you're good to go.
2. Respect the oil!
Oil gets hot, and can be dangerous - but the more anxious and flinchy you are around it, the more likely you are to splash yourself.
- - When you drop your battered food into the oil, carefully lower it right down to the level of the oil before letting go, as this will avoid too much splashing.
- - Avoid flinching and pulling your hand back too quickly, or you'll flick batter everywhere - just let go of the food and then bring your hand up in a controlled way.
- - Don't wear long sleeves that can dangle and get in the way - but do wear an apron to protect your clothes from any spitting oil.
- - Don't overheat the oil - you'll probably only need your hob to be set to a medium heat. If the oil starts to smoke or spit madly, turn it down immediately. To check whether the oil is ready for frying, drip a tiny bit of batter into the oil, and if it bubbles and sizzles a little, it's ready to use.
- - Never ever leave the pan unattended.
3. Keep tidy
- - Mop up any drips of oil or batter as soon as they occur, as they're a lot harder to clear up later. Batter in particular is a pain to clean up once it's dried onto your worktop!
- - Use the slotted spoon to remove any loose bits of batter from the pan. They end up burning and making a mess, so just clean them out of the oil between batches.
- - Don't let the slotted spoon sit in the pan, or you could end up knocking it and splashing the oil. Return it to a plate or dish when it's not being used.
- - Don't overcrowd the oil - cook in batches, and make sure each batch of food has plenty of space in the pan.
4. Clean up safely
When you've finished cooking, it's time to think about the clean-up (grumble grumble).
- - Do not try to pick up the pan while it still contains hot oil. It'll be heavy, and it won't end well. Just turn off the hob, let the oil cool down at its own pace, and don't touch it again until it's completely cooled.
- - Dispose of your oil responsibly! Oil doesn't solidify in the same way that animal fat does, but it can still make a mess of your pipes (and the pipes in the rest of your town!) if you put too much of it down the sink. If you sieve the oil thoroughly to remove any little bits of batter, you can keep it to reuse it later. Or, if you're determined to get rid of it, seal it tightly in a bottle and throw it in the bin.
- - If, heaven forbid, you do manage to start a fire (don't be scared! This has never happened to me and hopefully won't happen to you either), remember that you should never pour water onto it! Just turn the hob off (if it is safe to do so), call the fire brigade, and leave the house, closing the kitchen door behind you.
... and here's hoping I haven't scared you off frying for life. As long as you're well prepared and take a few easy precautions, all should go well.
I was afraid of frying for a long time, but I've done it several times now and it really isn't as scary as it first seems!
Oh, and if you're making beer batter, save the rest of the can for later... drinking and hot oil aren't a great combination.
What do you think, have I managed to convince you that deep frying at home can safely be done, even without a dedicated fryer?