While it’s hard to define American cuisine since it is influenced by so many different cultures, the U.S. is certainly famous for it’s fried food. Americans can’t seem to get enough or deep-fried snacks, from our famous buffalo chicken wings and corn dogs, to more adventurous creations such as deep-fried pickles and deep-fried Twinkies. Yet despite Americans’ penchant for all things deep-fried, we were far from the first culture to fry our meals.
Frying is simply the process of cooking food in oil. Deep-frying takes this one step further, as the food you are preparing is fully submerged in oil, as opposed to simmered in a shallow pan. Frying and deep-frying cooks food very quickly, which is part of their appeal. Plus deep-frying has the ability to make even lesser quality foods taste delicious, since it caramelizes the sugars in the food and traps in the food’s natural moisture. The technique of frying can be traced as far back Roman times, when people would fry their meats in oil. Many civilizations throughout the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Northern Africa were known to fry foods, and sheep tail fat was considered a frying specialty in the eighth to the fifteenth centuries. In the 1830s in Belgium, the French fry was invented, and is perhaps the most well known fried food to date.
Yet despite their global history, deep-fried foods have found a special place in American cuisine. While other countries may also deep-fry their meals from time to time, Americans have taken deep-frying to a whole new level. Many of our signature foods are prepared this way. Take for example, the corn dog. Invented at the Texas State Fair in 1942 by culinary genius Neil Fletcher, these corn meal-battered hot dogs are deep-fried and served on a stick! To this day, they remain a summertime staple across the U.S. A classic American bar food favorite is the deep-fried chicken wing, often served Buffalo-style and drenched in hot sauce. If you go to Maryland, be sure to have some crab cakes, which are often cooked by deep-frying.
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Head down South to New Orleans, and you will find the famous Po-Boy. While this sandwich was first made with roast beef, it is now most commonly composed of a variety of deep-fried seafood, like shrimp or oysters. Topped with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mayonnaise, the golden morsels are piled on French bread. And if that did not satisfy your deep-fried cravings, there is also a version of the po-boy that uses French fries instead of meat, and smothers them in gravy!
In America, no food is safe from the deep fryer. Take for example, the Thanksgiving turkey. Traditionally baked in an oven and filled with stuffing, deep-frying this holiday centerpiece has been a growing trend throughout the U.S. Originating in the South, the turkey is prepared by injecting the meat with marinade, and then lowering it into a massive deep-fryer filled with peanut or vegetable oil. The result is a moist turkey with a golden, crispy skin. However, deep-frying a turkey is very dangerous. It is important to take all of the necessary safety precautions if you choose to attempt this, since it is considered a serious fire hazard. Deep-frying turkey accidents cause approximately 900 house fires every year, and numerous injuries.
In recent years there is a new sense of exploration with regard to deep-fried foods, thanks in part to the culinary geniuses responsible for our State Fair foods. It seems as though Americans are eager to deep-fry anything we can imagine, and no idea is too bizarre to try. Take for example the Twinkie, many Americans favorite childhood junk food. Christopher Sell, of Brooklyn’s well-known ChipShop, is credited for inventing the deep-fried Twinkie and it his since become an infamous, finding a loyal following among fairgoers.
Other foods Americans have ventured to fry include mac and cheese, Oreos, pickles, Spam, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hot dogs, cheesecake, ice cream, beer, butter, bacon, and every and any kind of candy bar. Just remember, fried foods should not be consumed every day, as they are high in fat and low in nutritional value. Save them for special treats, everything in moderation!