Earlier this month I posted a recap of making doughnuts from scratch. I found it difficult to keep my oil within the suggested 365 to 370 degree range. The oil took a very long time to reach the mid-300's, then it shot up beyond 400 degrees before I even noticed which resulted in burnt donuts. Even after I adjusted the heat, the oil remained too hot. The donuts cooked very quickly on the outside which resulted in barely done insides. I noticed a very fine smoke in the air, too. I wrongly chalked it up to the wonkiness of frying.
Fast forward to yesterday afternoon. I work in an office building that hovers in the frigid zone during the hot summer months. I like to warm up by eating my lunch outside. I grabbed lunch and Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen With A Good Appetite and headed outside. It's a very readable cookbook which makes for a lovely lunch companion. I flipped the book open to Chapter 8: Better Fried. The introduction starts with an endearing story about Clark's run in with Chef Larry Forgione who said "Everything is better fried, but nothing is better than fried cheese." She concludes the essay by saying she prefers to use pure lard for frying, but, since it's hard to find, she recommends other oils. She concludes with this nugget:
"Another exotic though expensive frying possibility is pure, raw (virgin) coconut oil--if you don't mind a subtle coconut taste to your fried goods (excellent with fried pies and doughnuts, less so with corn dogs).
Vegetable, pure olive, and soybean oils will work well, too. But avoid canola, which is less stable when heated to very high temperatures."
Aha! I used canola oil. Even though the recipe specifically states vegetable oil, I only had canola oil on hand so that's what I used. Phew! Not only am I relieved, but I learned something too!