Food Talk – The Deep-Frying Incident, and why I’ll never deep-fry again.
So I believe I mentioned in another post that I don’t really like to deep-fry because it’s generally unhealthy, and one of the main reasons I got into cooking in the first place was because I stopped trusting others to prepare my food for me, and I wanted to be totally in control about what goes in and out of my body. (¬‿¬) So for whatever reason last Friday, I attempted deep-frying anyway, deciding to try my hand at making some homemade fish & chips, possibly because I was building a UK-inspired menu, and possibly because I forgot that I was a health nut. In any case, I learnt two very important lessons that day: 1. I am borderline retarded and 2. I’m never deep-frying again.
So I had purchased a bottle of peanut oil the day before, which is rare for me since I usually do my high-temperature cooking with coconut oil or lard, but obviously you can’t use those in large amounts without putting a pretty big dent in your wallet, so I went with peanut oil. I had gone to the fish market that morning to buy my fish too; they didn’t have haddock, which is what I was looking for, so I had to settle for Icelandic cod, which happened to be on special (it was still ridiculously expensive though, I mean $22 for 3 fillets totaling 0.7 kilos. Srsly?) For the rest of the day though, I honestly felt like my humanity was fading away. For months now, I’ve been doing such an excellent job in the kitchen; literally all of my attempts at trying new dishes have been successful. While to many this may have been a good thing, it left me feeling cold, emotionless, and empty, like I had no room to improve on any aspect of my life. I was the master-being whom I had set out to become all those years ago, and now that I had reached that status I had lost all purpose in life. Strange, I know, but that’s how I felt. So naturally I hadn’t thought very differently about attempting deep-frying for the first time; I had been reading up and watching video tutorials for that entire week, preparing myself for this one dish, as I usually do. I thought it was just going to be another day in the kitchen for me where absolutely nothing goes wrong…
So I chopped the potatoes into chips, or French fries, whatever you wish to call them. I whisked up my beer batter until it had a nice, creamy consistency, giving it a taste and taking some sips from the beer I was using. So far so good, right?
I simmered the chips for about 90 seconds in boiling water, just to get them off to a nice start before frying them. After that I switched to a bigger saucepan and started to pour in my oil while I set my chips aside in a nearby strainer. I had gone through the entire bottle of peanut oil before deciding that it wasn’t deep enough for the fish, so I reached for the grapeseed oil (which in normal circumstances I would never EVER use, but it was the only other option I had) and mixed it in with the peanut oil. Now today, and also at the time I wasn’t too sure if mixing oils was or is ever a good idea, but what did I care? I was the master-being, nothing could possibly go wrong. So once I emptied the bottle of grapeseed oil, I set the stove to high-heat and waited for the oil to heat up, without a thermometer, entertaining myself with some cooking shows in the meantime, occasionally glancing at the oil to see if it started boiling yet. 3 minutes go by. Nope, still as dead as a forest lake. 7 minutes go by, still no boil. Seriously? Maybe I should put the lid on so it’ll heat up quicker…
About 10 minutes go by, and I take the lid off to check once again for the boil. Phew, lots of steam it seems, but the oil is still pretty stagnant. Guess the lid goes back on… And for those of you who understand the basic chemistry of oil and already know what’s going on; Yeah. This is your “master-being” at work. So once I hit the 15 minute mark, it was at that point that I started to suspect something was wrong. Oh boy, what could it possibly be? Could it be the fact that “oil” and “boil” just don’t sound like two words you’d ever hear in the same sentence? Hm, I better google to see how long it takes for oil to boil… wait hold on… oil… boil… smoke… smoke? Oh yeah, my coworker once told me something about what happens when an oil is heated passed the smoke point. Apparently that’s when the oil starts to decompose and when trans fats start forming. Trans fats of course being a major contributing factor to the high heart-disease statistics in the western world, ever since the invention of the disgusting “food” product known as margarine… ugh. Anyways, back to the oil… Yeah it still ain’t boili– wait. Oh.
At this point, as you can imagine it was “steaming” quite a bit. The fire alarm went off almost instantly. It was at this point that I had realised the reason I nearly failed chemistry in high school. Within a minute or so, the entire kitchen was engulfed in a very thick cloud of smoke. Actual smoke. My lungs felt like they were on fire, my eyes were most likely turning red as I was frantically trying to shut the fire alarm off while the smoke continued to swallow up my very home. Eventually I was able to bring the pot outside where it continued to rain havoc upon the otherwise quiet streets, but on the inside the kitchen was already deemed temporarily unfit to support human life.
Well, damn. I’m here in the basement hacking up my lungs, I have a dentist appointment in an hour or so, and worst of all, dinner is to be delayed… I rung my father up to tell him how much of a retard I am, and he just so happened to be making his way up the porch. “Shit happens”, he said over the phone as he walked in.
Now I may not be a master-being, that much was clear, but there’s no way I was giving up on the recipe. I called my mother to tell her what happened, she sighed in disbelief and said we’d talk at home. After that, I was off to the dentist whom I told this story to, and she responded by telling me a story about how when she was 13 or so she did something similar and had attempt to cool down the burning oil with a splash of tap water… which lead to her entire kitchen turning black. Yikes. (*ノ・ω・）
On the way home, I picked up 2 more bottles of peanut oil (but it turned out I actually only needed one if I used a smaller pot, which I did), got home, asked my mother for help (because clearly I needed some adult supervision) and we finished work on the fish & chips, together. Of course I had to slice up another batch of chips since the ones I had sliced up earlier had gone all purple, but that wasn’t really a big deal. In the end, we were successful…
… almost. While it certainly did taste amazing, I was pretty eager to get it done and over with, especially after everything that had happened that day, so I tossed in all 3 fillets at once, and the batter sort of got all stuck together so when we took it out it was quite a mess… Chips were okay though! And my homemade tartare sauce was absolutely delicious, too. (◕‿◕✿)
So from this experience I was able to take home several culinary lessons, which are the following:
1. Heating oil is not the same as bringing water to a boil.
2. Deep-frying is actually very time consuming; the chips themselves took about 30 minutes before they started to get crispy.
3. Trying to be healthy at all when you’re deep-frying is a null point; whatever you’re deep-frying will actually absorb a lot more oil than you think, and whether or not you use a cheap oil like canola or a fancy oil like peanut oil, it doesn’t change the fact that you turned a 120-calorie fillet into something that probably has more than 250.
4. Deep-frying, overall, isn’t worth it. It’s expensive, messy, leaves your hands all oily and your kitchen smelling like McDonalds, and the amount of time it takes and calories it adds to the food just isn’t worth the taste. It might be to some people, but to them I’d suggest going to a place that does deep-frying in a more professional environment, I mean, it’s not like you give a shit about your health anyways.
So that’s my story. In the end I’m happy to have given it a try, because now I have first-hand deep-frying experience and I can go back to baking my food without guilt, knowing what a pain in the ass deep-frying really is. If I’m ever craving something unhealthy, I’ll just whip up some yummy sweets instead. Also, now that I know that I’m not a master-being, I feel alive and human again. And it feels great. (´･ω･`)
Also, I can take away something else I learnt that day; my tartar sauce recipe! This isn’t deep-fried, I’ll gladly make this again! ＼(＾O＾)／