Deep Frying vs Shallow Frying – What’s the Difference

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People love eating fried food and frying is the preferred method to prepare a lot of snacks. However, there are two different methods of frying – deep and shallow frying – and each is more suited to the preparation of certain foods than others.

The main difference between deep and shallow frying is that deep-frying involves fully submerging the food item in cooking oil while it is being heated up while in shallow frying, some parts of the food will be above the cooking oil surface.

Deep Frying

Deep frying is a cooking method that involves fully dipping the food items being prepared into cooking oil so all sides can be properly cooked. The cooking oil which would be at a high temperature will make all the external parts of the food item crispy.

Steam will cook the insides of the food and would prevent the oil from finding its way inside the food. For this reason, many deep-fried foods use batter in the preparation.

There are many ways to deep fry food and here is a discussion on the various methods;

  • Method One

This method involves a deep fat fryer. A deep fat fryer is a kitchen appliance that has a compartment deep enough to allow food to be fully submerged in cooking oil. They can withstand high temperatures and will prepare food to the desired texture.

  • Method Two

This works in place of a deep fat fryer. It involves using a deep pan or a pot, a lot of cooking oil, and a stove as a source of heat. One would have to put the pot or pan on the stove and pour enough cooking oil into it to deep fry food when it gets hot enough.

  • Method Three

This method is more appropriate for outdoor cooking or camping situations. One would need to get creative and use a container that can hold cooking oil to deep fry food items. The container would have to be suspended over a campfire or a heat source.

What Is Shallow Frying?

Shallow frying is a frying technique in which the food items would only be partially submerged in cooking oil. People use it to cook small cuts of meat, eggs, pancakes, vegetables, and other foods that do not require being dunked entirely in oil before they are prepared well.

Since all parts of the food item being shallowly fried do not have contact with oil at the same time, it would need to be flipped so all sides would be fully done.

The level of the cooking oil in the pan should be about one-third of the height of whatever is being shallow fried. This cooking method is different from sautéing because it gets its heat directly from the cooking oil rather than from direct contact with the frying pan – which sautéing requires.

The cooking oil needs to be at the right temperature because if it is too hot, the crust will burn while the interior remains raw. If heat is not turned up enough, the food will not fry well and would soak up much oil instead.

Using flour, batter, or breadcrumbs as a coating helps when shallow frying becomes it makes food items crunchy on the exterior and have a tender interior.

Steps for Shallow Frying

  • Pour cooking oil into the pan and let it heat up.
  • Place the food in the pan gently, to avoid splashes.
  • Do not overfill the pan, so the cooking oil will be sufficient to fry the food evenly.
  • Keep an eye on the food while frying and flip when the right crust forms on the bottom.
  • When both sides are crispy, remove the food from the pan carefully and place it in on absorbent paper to drain the excess oil.
  • Lightly season the shallow fried food with salt, let it cool and serve.

What Is the Difference Between Shallow Frying & Deep Frying?

The major difference between shallow and deep-frying is the amount of oil used to prepare the food. Shallow frying uses significantly less oil than deep frying. Also, in almost shallow frying cases, one would have to flip the food item so it can evenly cook on both sides.

This is not necessary when deep frying because almost all parts of the food item would be submerged in the cooking oil.

Both methods of frying are intended to produce foods with a crisp, crunchy, and brown exterior but that does not mean every food can be cooked properly with every method. For example, if one tries to fry a pancake in a deep fryer, the batter would not hold together in the way it was intended, so it would be better if it was shallow fried.

Likewise, shallow frying a French fry does not make as much sense as deep frying it will, so the latter method is better in this case.

Which Is Better?

It is hard to say deep frying is better than shallow frying and vice versa because different foods need different cooking methods to prepare them. Deep frying is better for foods that can hold their shape when dropped in oil and in situations where getting every part of the food evenly fried is the goal.

For example, it would not make much sense to shallow fry chicken because the oil might not adequately get to every nook and cranny of it. Other commonly deep-fried foods are spring rolls, donuts, potatoes, etc. This method consumes more oil which is more expensive considering the cost of oil that will be used.

Shallow frying is best employed when the food is not sturdy enough to float in cooking oil without falling apart, and if utmost care has to be taken while it is being fried. Some examples of these foods are vegetables, pancakes, small pieces of fish or meat, steak, pork, etc. Less cooking oil is used here so it is the less costly method of the two.

However, some foods can be prepared using either method, and it will be down to personal preference to choose the method which one wants to fry those food items with.