1. When deep-frying, it is best to use neutrally flavored oil like safflower or peanut oil. Vegetable shortening and lard also work well. Extra-virgin olive oil and butter have very low smoking points, which mean they will burn at a much lower temperature--making whatever you are frying taste scorched and bitter. Use enough oil so there is enough fat to cover whatever items you intend to fry.
2. Place the pot or pan of oil over high heat. Heating a large amount of oil can take a while.
Deep-frying should be done with the oil at 325 degrees F (185 degrees C); use a candy thermometer or large-dial thermometer that can hook onto the pot. Oils will begin to burn between 400 and 450 degrees F (200 and 225 degrees C) and will catch fire at around 500 degrees F (250 degrees C), so it is very important to monitor the temperature.
Once the oil reaches the desired temperature, reduce the heat to low. If you notice the temperature on the thermometer begins to drop, turn the stove up a small amount until the temperature has crawled back up to 365 degrees F (185 degrees C).
3. To avoid splashing hot oil when dropping food into the oil, use a long spoon and place the batter into the oil carefully. We're using hush puppy batter here.
4. The oil will begin to bubble dramatically. Once the exterior of the food is golden brown, test to see if it has cooked all the way through. If it is golden brown on the outside but undercooked on the inside, reduce the oil's heat to about 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) and begin again.
5. Once you have determined the oil is at the proper temperature and you are indeed making delicious, properly cooked food, add more food to the oil. Be careful not to crowd the oil; crowding will cause the oil's temperature to drop, and you'll end up with greasy, stuck-together food.
6. Once golden brown, use a slotted metal spoon or spatula to remove the cooked items and drain them on paper towels or cooling racks.
7. Now is the time to season! Season while the fried items are still hot and fresh out of the fryer. (If you're making doughnuts, it's time to roll them in sugar.)
Flex your deep-frying muscles with these recipes: