Frying is often a conyenient mode of cookery; it may be performed by a fire which will not do for roasting or boiling; and by the introduction of the pan between the meat and the fire, things get more equally dressed.
The Dutch oven or bonnet is a very convenient utensil for small things, and a very useful substitute for the jack, the gridiron, or frying-pan.
A frying-pan should be about four inches deep, with a perfectly flat and thick bottom, twelve inches long and nine broad, with perpendicular sides, and must be half filled with fat: good frying is, in fact, boiling in fat. To make sure that the pan is quite clean, rub a little fat over it, and then make it warm, and wipe it out with a clean cloth.
Be very particular in frying, never to use any oil, butter, lard, or drippings, but what is quite clean, fresh, and free from salt Any thing dirty spoils the look; any thing bad-tasted or stale, spoils the flavor; and salt prevents its browning.
Fine olive oil is the most delicate for frying; but the best oil is expensive, and bad oil spoils every thing that is dressed with it
For general purposes, and especially for fish, clean fresh lard is not near so expensive as oil or clarified butter, and does almost as well. Butter often burns before you are aware of it: and what you fry will get a dark and dirty appearance.
Dripping, if nicely clean and fresh, is almost as good as any thing; if not clean, it may be easily clarified. Whatever fat you use, after you have done frying, let it remainain the pan for a few minutes, and then pour it through a sieve into a clean basin; it will do three or four times as well as it did at first, i. e. if it has not burned: but, the fat you have fried fish in must not be used for any other purpose.
To know when the fat is of a proper heat, according to what you are to fry, is the great secret in trying.
To fry fish, parsley, potatoes, or any thing that is watery, your fire must be very clear, and the fat quite hot; which you may be pretty sure of, when it has done hissing, and is still. We cannot insist too strongly on this point: if the fat is not very hot, you cannot fry fish either to a good color, or firm and crisp.
To be quite certain, throw a little bit of bread into the pan; if it fries crisp, the fat is ready; if it burns the bread, it is too hot.
The fire under the pan must be clear and sharp, otherwise the fat is so long before it becomes ready, and demands such attendance to prevent the accident of its catching fire, that the patience of cooks is exhausted, and they frequently, from ignorance or impatience, throw in what they are gome; to fry before the fat is half hot enough. Whatever is so fried will be pale and sodden, and offend the palate and stomach not less than the eye.
Have a good light to fry by, that you may see when you have got the right color: a lamp fixed on a stem, with a loaded foot, which has an arm that lengthens out, and slides up and down like a reading candlestick, is a most useful appendage to kitchen fireplaces, which are very seldom light enough for the nicer operations of cookery.
After all, if you do not thoroughly drain the fat from what you have fried, especially from those things that are full dressed in bread crumbs, or biscuit powder, etc, your cooking will do you no credit.
The dryness of fish depends much upon its having been fried in fat of a due degree of heat; it is then crisp and dry in a few minutes after it is taken out of the pan: when it is not, lay it on a soft cloth before the fire, turning it occasionally, till it is. This will sometimes take fifteen minutes: therefore, always fry fish as long as this before you want them, for fear you may find this necessary.
To fry fish, see receipt to fry soles, which is the only circumstantial account of the process that has yet been printed. If the cook will study it with a little attention, she must soon become an accomplished frier.
Frying, though one of the most common of culinary operations, is one that is least commonly performed perfectly well.