Martha Stewart recently stopped into Allrecipes HQ in Downtown Seattle, and, naturally, we threw her a party. Nothing too fancy, just a few appetizers, some Washington state wine, and luscious coconut pie bites, delivered personally by celebrity chef Tom Douglas. Martha was gracious, especially when heaping praise on the tempura-battered Hen in the Woods mushroom, incredibly flavorful fungi finished in a colorful shower of purple borage flowers.
But getting those mushrooms deep fried while keeping our test kitchen Martha-ready reminded me of a little-known fact of frying: It's almost always a good plan to fry outside (and especially when you're entertaining Martha Stewart!).
Here are three reasons why you should haul your deep fryer outdoors:
1) It Keeps the Kitchen Cool
When chef Jeffrey Vance arrived the morning of the event to set up, his only request was a deep pot in which to fry the mushrooms. Hmmm, I thought; not a good idea: The fan in the kitchen isn't as efficient as it should be. It also kicks into high gear and sounds a little like an airplane taking off. Because the happy hour was being held in the kitchen/cafe area, I asked chef Jeff if he minded frying out on the deck in order to the keep the kitchen cool.
2) No Funky Fragrance
The last thing you want is for your kitchen to reek of food frying. No matter how much you love fried chicken, French fries, and other foods cooked in hot oil, there's no getting around the strong odors created by this cooking method. Moving a portable fryer outdoors eliminates the issue.
Here's a little great advice from Chef Jeff: Set up a wire rack nearby to drain the fried food, rather than placing them on paper towels -- to keep the food crisp. Brilliant!
3) The Fry is a Neat Party Trick
Because you're going to fry just before -- and maybe even during -- the gathering, a cooking station set up outside can be a fun conversation starter. Guests wander out to see what's cooking. Of course, while talking technique and sharing tips — don't overcrowd the fryer or the temperature of the oil will drop — it's essential to remind everyone to keep their distance when hot oil is involved. Oh, and let that oil cool thoroughly before straining and refrigerating for future use.
Check out this short video for more frying advice from chef Jeffrey Vance:
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