In this article we will discuss what oil is the best oil for deep frying and how it can make you fried food healthier. But first, let’s talk about frying itself, because for choosing the best oil, it is important to understand what kind of the processes are going on during frying.
The history of cooking is as old as the history of mankind and so are the ways of cooking. Just as there are so many kinds of foods so are the ways to make them. One of them is called frying.
What is Frying?
Frying means to cook food in fat, for example butter, tallow or drippings etc. But that’s not all of it; the fat has to be heated to a certain degree depending on the kind of frying we choose.
Depending on the amount of fat used or the time required frying is further classified into the following types:
- Stir Frying
- Pan Frying
- Deep Frying / Immersion Frying
As the name suggests, stir frying involves a lot of stirring. It’s usually done in a skillet or a thin metal pan with a round bottom (or in a wok). The food items are cut into small pieces and are fried in a very small amount of fat followed by constant stirring. The temperature is kept very high and the frying is done for only a few minutes.
Pan frying is also done in a skillet but the temperature doesn’t have to be as high as in stir frying. Food is cooked in a very small amount of fat. Chicken and fried eggs are examples of pan frying.
Deep Frying / Immersion Frying
Deep frying is also known as immersion frying mainly because in this method, the food is completely immersed in the fat.
The work is usually done either in a deep fryer (an appliance specifically invented for deep frying) or a heavy and deep saucepan. The fat is heated at about 350-375 °F (176-190°C). Once the fat has reached the desired temperature, the food is immersed in the molten fat and fried till a crispy seal is formed around the food. Just as the seal is formed on the outside, the moisture inside the food turns into steam which cooks it from inside. It’s like a two-way road, the steam is preventing the oil from entering the food and the oil is preventing the steam from leaving the food. This reaction is the basic cause of the formation of the crust or seal on the outside.
Temperature is a very important factor when it comes to deep frying. The ideal temperature is between 350 to 375°F (176-190°C). Any temperature below this will cause the oil to merge with the food; any temperature above this will burn the food as well as the nutrition inside it. Therefore, you have to be very careful with selecting a proper temperature.
Deep frying is generally not considered to be a healthy cooking technique mainly because it adds an extra amount of calories and fats to your diet. Especially the deep-fried food of the restaurants is unsafe and unhealthy to eat. This is mainly because the oils they use are vegetable oils that contain huge quantities of trans-fats and polyunsaturated fat.
However, deep-frying at home doesn’t necessarily have to be unhealthy and unsafe, provided that you take the following guidelines:
- The first key factor is a proper temperature. We have explained how a little increase or decrease in the temperature could make your efforts go down the drain
- The second key factor is a good oil. Since the food is going to be submerged in fats, the quality and the kind of the oil you use matters a lot.
Selecting The Best Oil For Deep Frying
When selecting oil for deep-frying, we should consider the following things.
Smoke point is the temperature at which the oil starts to burn. While choosing oil for deep-frying, we should keep in mind the smoke point of different oils and choose the oil that has a higher smoke point. Oils with a higher smoke point can withstand high temperature and are perfect for deep frying. Oils with a lower smoke point, on the other hand will burn up before the required temperature is reached. These oils, if used, will not only leave a burnt taste to your food but, if heated beyond their smoke point, they could also cause fire.
Another important point to keep in mind is the stability of oil which largely depends on the kinds of fats present in the oil. Saturated and monounsaturated fats are the good kind of fats while poly unsaturated and trans-fats are the harmful kinds. We should choose oils that are mostly saturated and monounsaturated and avoid oils containing trans-fats because the more saturated the fats in an oil are, the more stable they will be when heated.
The Best Oil for Deep Frying: Coconut Oil
It the has been ranked as the world’s best oil for deep frying as it does not lose its quality even after hours of heating.
According to a research, 90% of coconut oil is composed of saturated fats due to which it doesn’t deteriorate even after 8 hours of continuous deep frying at 365°F (180°C).
Another plus point of the coconut oil is that it has a number of health benefits.
Thanks to its medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), the oil helps with digestion, because MCFA are digested more efficiently then the other forms of fatty acids.
The fat-burning characteristics of the oil are remarkable, and it is often a part of a healthy loss-weight diet.
Also, coconut oil can help you to boost your immune system – again thanks to its fatty acids, or more precisely to one of their derivative monolaurin. It is known for its anti-bacterial properties and can fight many pathogens. Because of that, the oil is used in many therapeutic drugs for treating various infections and other diseases.
On top of that, coconut oil can and should be included in your beauty routine. It can be used for both skin and hair as a moisturize that helps to achieve a healthy look. It helps to smooth wrinkles and repair damaged hair.
Coconut oil is such a great oil to have at home!
Other Options For Deep Frying Oil
Animal fats like ghee, tallow, lard and drippings etc. are also a very good choice for deep-frying as they have high smoke points and most of the fats are saturated or monounsaturated. Animal fats also lack in trans-fats which is a good thing since trans-fats are harmful for health. But we should also keep this in mind that the amount and kind of fats present in an animal depends on its diet. Naturally fed animals lack in polyunsaturated fats which is a good thing and these fats can be used for deep-frying. But those animals that are artificially fed i.e. from grains or synthetic animal food have a lot of polyunsaturated fats; such animal fats should not be used.
The olive oil is considered to be the most beneficial oil in the world. According to one research report, olive oil can be used in a deep fryer for at least 24 continuous hours before it begins to deteriorate. The reason behind its high smoke point is the excessive amount of monounsaturated fats. The only problem with this oil is that it loses its flavor and fragrance when heated.
When it comes to health properties, the avocado oil is more or less similar to the olive oil. It has a high smoke point and lesser amount of polyunsaturated fats. Avocado oil is a perfect choice for high heat cooking.
Oils That Should Never Be Used For Deep Frying
When planning to cook a delicious fired dish, stay away from these kinds of oil:
- Peanut oil: Peanut oil has a smoking point of about 446°F which makes it quite popular for deep-frying techniques. One more plus point of peanut oil is its neutral flavor i.e. it neither absorbs the flavor or fragrance of the food, nor does it have a flavor of its own. But it has one defect that makes it unfit for deep frying. Peanut oil contains excessive amounts of polyunsaturated fats. These fats are not stable and can cause fire or react with oxygen when heated.
- Palm oil: Palm oil is also neutral in taste and is mainly composed of monounsaturated and saturated fats. But there are some health concerns and voices being raised against its use in deep frying.
- Vegetable fats: Vegetable fats should never be used for deep frying mainly because they are high in polyunsaturated fats as well as trans-fats which are very toxic and harmful for the heart. For example, Soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, sesame oil and canola oil etc.
How To Make a Healthy Deep-Fried Dish
If you think you can get a healthy deep-fried dish from a restaurant, you’ve got another thing coming. It’s almost impossible to find a restaurant that provides such food. What you can do is make the food at home. We would suggest that you:
- Choose oil that is low in trans-fats and other toxic fatty acids and high in saturated and mono-unsaturated. Also keep in mind the smoke point of the oil.
- Avoid using typical batters as they absorb unnecessary fats.
- Heat the oil to the required degree i.e. 350-375°F (176-190°C).
- Don’t leave the food in the oil for too long.
- Make sure the temperature is maintained between the frying sessions.
Enjoy your healthy deep-fried dish!
Author: Salman Mushtaque