Promoting fried food is bad. Bad in such a good way. But even worse are failed attempts that produce limp and pale food. (For a geekalicious explanation of why it’s hard to fry in a home kitchen check out How to Read a French Fry by Russ Parsons.) The short answer on why it’s hard to fry at home is that oil repels water, and most foods contain a lot of water. To break down this barrier the oil should first be seasoned.
I like to use peanut oil for frying because fattier oils fry more quickly and result in crispier crusts, and peanut oil is about as fatty as I want to get. The truly bold will go straight to lard.
Starting with a pint of fresh oil, add a tablespoon of all purpose flour and then heat it over a medium setting. You could also use any fat, say a bit of bacon, or a tablespoon of chicken broth. This produces a chemical compound that will help cut through the oil and allow it to penetrate the food. Also try adding seasoning for flavor – my favorite is a half head of garlic, a teaspoon of salt and a few peppercorns. Watch the oil out of the corner of your eye and lower the temperature if it begins to shimmer, a warning sign that it may soon start to burn. Once the garlic is browned you’re ready to cook. Don’t forget to take out, and eat, the garlic before frying the rest of the food.
After cooking, strain the oil through cheesecloth or a fine wire mesh and return to it’s container for future use. Add fresh oil between uses to keep it form getting too rich. If you haven’t used the oil for a few months you can discard it and start over with a fresh batch.