Take a minute and put that forkful of crispy fries down for a second. Yes, you can now appreciate the fact that deep-fried foods rank among the top favorite human dietary favorites. For some people, it is the dark, tantalizing and delicious aroma that turns their jaded palates on. For others, it’s more of the delicate fine line between salty and sweet that characterizes most deep fried dishes. And so we ask, what works for you?
That aside, deep frying foods are an integral component of a majority of both traditional and foreign cuisines. Not forgetting that there are a staple in the snacks and fast-food industries – most of us are already guilty of this anyway.
Unfortunately, deep frying ( as much as it is embraced globally from the McDonald’s outlets to Kentucky Fried Chicken to traditional Indian Bhajias ), is not exactly one of the healthiest cooking cultures that you could come across today – especially when done on an industrial scale. But this certainly doesn’t mean that deep-frying at home should be unhealthy too. With the right deep fryer and correct type of oil, you can enjoy binging on those forbidden pieces of fried heavenly goodness every once in awhile.
So one may ask, which is the best oil for deep frying?
To answer this, we must first-of-all shed some light on a few pertinent issues revolving around deep frying cooking.
Table of Contents
- 1 How Deep Frying Works
- 2 The ‘Stability’ of your choice of oil
- 3 Which is the overall best oil for deep frying?
- 4 What of Animal-based oils?
- 5 Are There any Other Good Choices?
- 6 Oils That Should Never Be Used For Deep-Frying
How Deep Frying Works
As you already know, deep-frying involves the art of submerging food in hot oil. Ideally, the temperature should be around 350 to 370 Fahrenheit.
Now this is what happens; as soon as the food is submerged in the oil, it cooks almost instantly and ‘cakes’ by forming an impermeable layer such that the hot oil can no longer penetrate. At the same time, any moisture trapped inside the food immediately turns into hot steam, thus cooking the food from inside out. That’s also the reason that it is imperative to make sure that the oil is heated to the correct temperatures ( before introducing the food ) to prevent it from seeping into the food making it overly greasy and sickening.
Nonetheless, note that does not mean that you should heat up the oil to extremely high temperatures ( above 400F ) as this can easily dry out/cake the food or even oxidise the heated oil.
The ‘Stability’ of your choice of oil
It’s worth noting that not all oil have the same smoke point temperatures. In other words, different oils can withstand different heating temperatures, the same way that oils that are more stable don’t readily react with oxygen when heated.
Speaking of stability, it’s an open secret that the more the saturated fatty components in a type of oil, the more stable it’s likely to be. And for this reason, mono-saturated oils are typically the best, while polyunsaturated fats rank the lowest. And this is mostly because polyunsaturated fats contain more than one carbon double-bonds in their molecular structure. These structures will often react with oxygen resulting to harmful compounds as by-products. This explains why some oils impart a particular characteristic ‘flavor’ to the food especially if you turn up the dial above 350F.
Now with that out of the way, one-too-many are likely are likely to ask the following question;
Which is the overall best oil for deep frying?
From a general and overall point of view, coconut oil is the obviously your best and healthiest choice as far deep frying in your home kitchen goes. If anything, extensive chemical and laboratory tests have shown that even after 8 hours of continuous deep-frying, it’s quality doesn’t depreciate and neither does it impart a foreign taste to the food being cooked.
What’s more, over 90% of coconut oil is made up of saturated fatty acids, which makes it very resistant to heat. To add an icing to this cake, coconut oil has a host numerous health benefits, and it is believed to help obese men and women lose the unattractive belly fat that comes many years of leading a sedentary lifestyle.
But there is a catch to it, nevertheless. Apart from being very expensive and not easily available, some varieties of coconut oil ( especially the cheaper ones ) will often leave a characteristic ‘coconut’ odor to the food after use. Other than that, if you’re looking for a choice of oil that can handle long continuous hours of intensive deep frying without a noticeable change in quality, then coconut oil is your best pick
What of Animal-based oils?
Contrary to what most think, animal fats are excellent choices for that occasional deep-frying too. By animal fats here, we mean natural fats such as tallow, lard, ghee, fat drippings, etc.
The only drawback to using animal fats is that the fatty acid content often varies depending on the source animal’s diet. So it’s possible to ascertain the quality of oil beforehand. For instance, oil from animals that were previously fed on pasture or what are commonly referred to as grass-fed livestock, often tend to have less polyunsaturated fatty acids in their fat reserves than their grain and concentrates fed counterparts.
Therefore, only animal fat from animals that were reared on a natural diet should be considered excellent alternatives to coconut oil.
That said, you can always buy high-quality lard/tallow from a nearby grocery store or supermarket. But remember that there’s also the option of saving the drippings from slaughtered carcasses and using it at a later time.
Are There any Other Good Choices?
We live in a world of variety. The story is not different here also. So here are other useful options you can consider.
It’s relatively stable compared to other vegetable-based oil sources, thanks to the high monosaturated fats in it, which are moderately resistant to excessive heat. In fact, some stoichiometric studies prove that olive can be used in deep fryers for more than 24 hours before it shows any noticeable depreciation in quality due to excessive oxidation.
It has a higher smoke point than olive oil ( 570F ). It’s very popular in large-scale fast food joints due to its perfectly neutral taste. But more importantly, because it barely absorbs the flavor of food under use. You can use it repeatedly to deep-fry different foods.
Just like Avocado oil, Peanut oil has a high smoking point, neutral taste and neither does it absorb the flavor of food in use. But from a health perspective, you may want to steer clear of peanut/groundnut oil.
Oils That Should Never Be Used For Deep-Frying
Under no circumstances should you use the following oils in your kitchen for deep frying. There not only low in saturated fats, but also have a dangerously high level of omega 6 fatty acids and toxic trans fats. These include and but are not limited to; corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, grape seed oil, sesame oil and basically any other industrially processed vegetable oil. Avoid them at all costs.