Frying is cooking by immersion in very hot fat. The success of frying depends upon the fat being sufficiently hot, and enough fat being used to completely cover the articles cooked in it. A kettle for frying should be kept for that purpose alone, and started with enough fat to fill it two thirds full. Olive-oil, lard, cottolene, drippings, or any mixture of them, serve the purpose. When properly used but little fat is consumed, and the pot can be easily replenished with the right quantity for its next use. Each time, after using the fat, a slice of raw potato should be dropped in to clarify it; it should then be strained through a cloth and returned to the pot, be covered when cold, and set away until again wanted. This fat can be used for potatoes, and anything which is coated with egg and crumbs. If fish without this coating are fried in it, it will then be unsuitable for other purposes. A pot of fat will with care last for months, but should be clarified as often as necessary (see below). When the fat is to be used, the frying-kettle should be placed on the range an hour before the time it is needed. It will then become gradually hot, and at the right moment can be quickly raised to the smoking heat needed for frying. It takes some time for fat to reach this temperature; and if this preparatory measure is not taken, a cook, when hurried, is likely to use it before the right heat is attained, or to place it on the open fire, which is attended with great danger. Many persons are seriously burned from this imprudence. When fat boils over and takes fire, the best extinguisher is ashes. If the cook's clothes take fire, the best thing to do is to wrap the skirts together and roll on the floor until assistance comes. With ordinary care there need be no accidents. Dropping grease on the range or clothes can be avoided by holding a tin plate under the frying-basket when removing it from the kettle. When the articles to be fried are prepared, the wire basket should be dipped into the fat to grease it, the articles laid in, a few at a time, without touching one another, the basket hung on an iron or wooden spoon, and slowly lowered into the fat. Too many articles must not be put in at the same time, or the heat of the fat will be too much reduced. Spattering is caused by water contained in the articles being turned to steam and throwing out the fat; hence, one reason for making them very dry and of lowering them gradually into the fat. When fat is sufficiently hot it at once sears the outside of everything placed in it, and forms a crust through which the grease cannot penetrate and be absorbed by the food. Egg and crumbs are used for the purpose of thus encrusting the outside of made dishes, like croquettes. The mistake should not be made of leaving articles too long in the fat; a lemon color, which is the one desired, is quickly attained. When lifted from the fat, the basket should be held for a few minutes, or until through dripping, over the kettle, which is the hottest place to be found, the articles then placed on a brown paper without touching one another, and set in the open oven, or on the hot shelf, until perfectly dry. If so treated the grease will evaporate, and the articles become so free from it as not to leave a mark on the napkin on which they are served. Articles properly prepared and fried in this manner can be no more unwholesome than meat which is basted with drippings. The fat should be given time to again rise to the smoking heat before a second basketful of articles is immersed. When frying articles which take a little time to cook, the pot should be drawn to a cooler part of the range, after the first few minutes. The coating will then be formed, and the cooking can proceed more slowly, and the articles will not brown too much before they are cooked. Croquettes, being made of cooked meat, need to remain in the fat only long enough to color and become heated.
To extinguish fire from grease.
Color of fried articles.
Frying Kettle And Basket.
1. Frying Kettle.
2. Wire Basket and Iron Spoon for lifting the Frying Basket. (See page 72).
When fat becomes discolored and unfit for use, stir into it when melted one half teaspoonful of baking soda and a quart of water. Let it boil for a little time, take off the scum that rises, and set the pot aside until cold. Remove the cake of grease, scrape off all the impurities, put it again on the fire, where it will melt but will not be agitated, and let it remain undisturbed until all the water has evaporated and the remaining impurities have settled to the bottom; then pour off the clear grease. When fat bubbles it means there is water in it, not that it is hot.
Cut the fat into pieces, place it in a shallow pan over moderate heat until the fat is melted, then strain it through a cloth. There will be no odor from the fat if not placed where it becomes too hot. All kinds of fats are good for frying except mutton fat, turkey fat, and fat from smoked meats; these can be used for making soap, as directed on page 259.