Of all the holiday traditions, deep-frying a turkey is arguably one of the most intense. If a 16-pound butterball hits hot oil the wrong way, the results can be disastrous.
Even deep-frying on a stovetop can be dangerous. This year, save yourself (and your local fire department) some stress. Scientists have found a new trick for mastering the art of deep-frying.
No expensive equipment is necessary—in fact, you likely have two of these tools with you right now.
Finding The Sweet Spot
If your oil is too cold, your food can get chewy and greasy (not good). If your oil is too hot, your food can burn, the oil can ignite, and your kitchen could catch fire (definitely not good).
The trick to deep-frying is maintaining just the right temperature. To find the sweet spot, Japanese chefs will use a wet chopstick. They listen for the sizzle of the chopstick to determine the oil’s temperature.
This trick led scientists at several universities to ask, how the heck does that work?
Sizzling, Singing, Or Silence
The fluid dynamic researchers sought to answer just that. They found that when a wet chopstick hits hot oil, water and air bubbles form.
“Now that water bubble and those air bubbles would be different in shape and size,” Rafsan Rabbi told NPR, “and that would dictate the amount of noise that you’re actually hearing. [It would also] dictate the frequency of the noise that you’re hearing.”
Tadd Truscott, another scientist on the project, says, “if you hear really loud popping or crackling, it’s probably too hot. If you don’t hear anything, then it’s usually too cold.”
“Then, there’s sort of this nice bubbling sound,” Truscott continues. “It almost feels like a song to some people, as it was described to me once.”
Fried To Perfection
To be clear, there’s a reason why PSAs about deep-frying turkeys pop up every November. Dropping a 16-pound bird into a 30-qt stockpot is a lot different than, say, frying dumplings on the stove.
If you’re planning on frying your bird, then invest in a temperature gauge. You’ll want something a little more precise than a chopstick for this project.
And unless you’re deep-frying turkeys year-round, it’s best to brush up on this cooking technique before you’re three beers in on Thanksgiving Day. The Manual offers an aptly named guide, “How to Deep Fry a Turkey Without Killing Yourself.”
However, if you’re frying things in the kitchen—dumplings, pastry shells, and so on—the chopstick trick is perfect.
Not to mention, that pile of Chinese takeout chopsticks in your junk drawer finally has a purpose. Happy frying!