Who can say no to a beautifully fried piece of chicken? The crunch of that first bite followed by the succulent tenderness inside — what’s not to love! There's a reason every culture has their own fried favorites -- Japanese karaage, Indian pakoras, Middle Eastern Falafel, Spanish churros, Latin American chicharrones -- all considered some of the best fried foods around the globe.
These lip-smacking foods have one thing in common: they reach peak flavor and texture when deep-fried in bubbling hot oil. There is just something about fried foods that is comforting, homey, and irresistible.
What’s the science and magic behind frying that baking, roasting and air frying can’t achieve? Why are fried foods always so tasty?
What Makes Fried Food Delicious
We love fried food with a passion. Eating a fried morsel is a full sensory experience and delivers culinary satisfaction that is hard to beat.
The first bite is music to your ears and a preview of the delightful goodness to follow. The sound and sensation of crunching stimulates your brain’s auditory function, sending you reeling into a state of pure pleasure.
The unique crunchiness and veritable melt-in-your-mouth experience of fried food are due to the chemical process that takes place during frying. Yes, there is a science of frying that results in deliciousness.
Oil that is ready for frying is almost double boiling temperature, and once your food hits the surface of the oil, it creates bubbles. This chemical reaction quickly dries up the outer layer of the food, making the outside crunchy while the inside remains moist.
So you can thank science for that crave-worthy fried food texture of crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.
There’s nothing as flavorful as fried food, and the culprit here is the actual oil itself. Oil is fat. And fat is very tasty.
Regardless of whether you are using sunflower, olive, sesame, peanut, or vegetable oil, any of these oils will directly impact the distinct flavor of your fried food. If absorbing the oil is not enough, seasoned batter adds another layer of flavor to fried food.
Batter is the vessel for all the herbs, spices, and condiments that create the flavorful golden crust we all crave. And when you deep fry something battered, this batter clings desperately to the delicacy inside, enhancing and complementing its companion in the most delicious way.
No Tools Necessary
No tools required to eat, that is. Fried foods have the distinction of tasting better when eaten with your bare hands. That tactile experience creates an intimacy with that spicy chicken wing that is unmatched. And the only acceptable next step is to lick every remaining crumb off your fingertips. Mmm-MMM.
That one-of-a-kind satisfaction
Spoiler alert: fried food isn’t healthy. But you see, it’s not pretending to be. You can deep fry pretty much anything and watch it turn into a mouthwatering delicacy. Fried food offers a gift to each of the senses and we gratefully relish every bite.
The Science of Air Frying
Today, we are more aware than ever of the importance of nourishing our bodies with healthy foods. We try to make healthier choices, but let's face it, fried food is hard to give up. This has led to an increasing demand for air fryers over the last few years.
Air fryers are your modern countertop kitchen appliance that offers the same functionality as a convection oven. The promise of this convenient and portable appliance is to mirror the outcome of deep-frying by using hot air and very little oil. And science plays a role here too!
Air fryers are designed with a fan and a heating mechanism. How to air fry? Simply place the ingredients into the air fryer basket and the hot air circulates down and around your food. The heat inside the air fryer delivers an effect similar to traditional frying in oil, crisping foods' outer layer.
Texture and Flavor of Air Fried Food
While it is the healthier option as it uses little to no fat, does it deliver the same satisfaction in terms of taste and texture as one deep-fried in oil?
No. Nothing can beat oil-fried food.
Air-fried foods taste distinctly different from deep-fried ones. While technology keeps evolving, air fried food texture still can’t compete with the crunchiness of food fried in fat.
Instead, it tastes and feels like oven food with some extra crisp on it. But if the effect of hot air is similar to that of hot oil, why does fried taste better than air fried?
It’s all about the oil. Without oil, your intended fried food dehydrates as it cooks in hot air. This leads to your food turning tough rather than achieving the magical balance of crunchy and tender.
Will adding oil make it taste more like it is deep-fried? Unfortunately, even if you add a splash of oil to your air fryer, it doesn’t quite deliver the results of traditional frying. The hot air circulating within the appliance is not enough to enhance the richness of the flavors that you can get from the hot oil.
You might have the flavor, but the air fried food taste will always be lacking.
What’s Better: Deep Fry or Air Fry?
At this point, you might be hesitating whether an air fryer is right for you.
If you’re more worried about your caloric intake and your goal is to eat healthy — and if you are willing to forgo the taste — then an air fryer is the way to go for you.
But if taste reigns supreme, you can still use different techniques to make your deep fried food healthier. For example, remove your food as soon as it’s cooked to reduce the amount of time it sits in oil.
The one hassle with frying food is that you end up using plenty of oil, which means having to clean up the mess.
Thankfully, you can use smart hacks like FryAway™ to help get rid of the grease easily and conveniently. An innovative 100% plant-based powder that converts your cooking oil into solid organic waste that you can then easily toss away with your regular garbage. No more worrying about possibly clogging your plumbing with the cooking oil as you indulge in some scrumptious golden goodness!
Fried foods provide enough stimulation to our senses to make the entire experience undeniably unforgettable in taste and texture.
If you love fried foods for their ultimate crunch then stick to traditional frying. It provides you that guilty pleasure that no other cooking method can provide.