In our second instalment of Australia’s iconic TV chef and author Lyndey MIlan’s series on the Joy of Olive Oil, she takes a look at deep frying.
Deep frying is one of the oldest and most popular cooking methods, especially in the countries of the Mediterranean basin, where olives and olive oil abound. Though deep frying tended to be looked down upon in many other areas of the world, acceptance of the Mediterranean diet as an excellent model for good health is changing this. Best of all, it tastes wonderful. No wonder deep frying was the Mediterranean way of making cheap food tasty!
Deep frying with olive oil makes sense from a taste, health and budget perspective. Antioxidants which prevent oxidation of the fatty acids mean that, if filtered after each use, olive oil can be safely used at least ten times for deep-frying. As the smoke point declines each time, it can be then be suitable for shallow-frying, or a confit. Chicken confit cooked in olive oil rather than duck confit cooked in duck fat is wonderful. Strain off the oil, keep it in the fridge and use it for frying – great flavour.
It can also be heated to a much higher temperature in cooking than many other oils. As it forms a seal around food, less fat is absorbed into the food. It is important to cook at the right temperature, approximately 180’C for a crisp, dry finish. Indeed in Mediterranean countries it is considered that when frying is carried out correctly and the food drained, the paper in which it is wrapped should remain completely dry with no grease marks.
Do not add too much food at one time to the hot oil as this lowers the temperature, making the food absorb oil. Much better to cook in several smaller batches.
Although the natural antioxidants in olive oil inhibit rancidity, olive oil should be used within one year of production.
The same rule about temperature holds true for shallow-frying. If the temperature is correct, no lower than 120’C, what you are frying will not be stewed in oil.
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