Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/846

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

idea that the metal plate forming the bottom of the frying-pan should directly convey the heat of the fire to the fried substance, and that the bit of butter or lard or dripping put into the pan is used to prevent the fish from sticking to it, or to add to the richness of the fish by smearing its surface.

The theory which I have suggested (see No. XIII, page 818) is that the melted fat cooks by convection of heat, just as water does in the so-called boiling of meat. If that is correct, it is evident that the fish, etc., should be completely immersed in a bath of melted fat or oil, and that the turning over demanded by the greased-plate theory is unnecessary. Well-educated cooks understand this distinctly, and use a deeper vessel than our common frying-pan, charge this with a quantity of fat sufficient to cover the fish, which is simply laid upon a wire support, or frying-basket, and left in the hot fat until the browning of its surface, or of the flour or bread-crumbs with which it is coated, indicates the sufficiency of the cookery.

At first sight this appears extravagant, as compared with the practice of greasing the bottom of the pan with a little dab of fat; but any housewife who will apply to the frying of sprats, herrings, etc., the method of quantitative inductive research, described and advocated by Lord Bacon in his "Novum Organum Scientarum," may prove the contrary.

"Must I read the 'Novum Organum,' and buy another dictionary, in order to translate all this?" she may exclaim in despair. "No!" is my reply. This Baconian inductive method, to which we are indebted for all the triumphs of modern science, is nothing more nor less than the systematic and orderly application of common sense and definite measurement to practical questions. In this case it may be applied simply by frying a weighed quantity of any particular kind of fish—say sprats—in a weighed quantity of fat used as a bath; then weighing the fat that remains and subtracting the latter weight from the first, to determine the quantity consumed. If the frying be properly performed, and this quantity compared with that which is consumed by the method of merely greasing the pan-bottom, the bath-frying will be proved to be the more economical as well as the more efficient method.

The reason of this is simply that much or all of the fat is burned and wasted when only a thin film is spread on the bottom of the pan, while no such waste occurs when the bath of fat is properly used. The temperature at which the dissociation of fat commences is below that required for delicately browning the surface of the fish itself, or of the flour or bread-crumbs, and therefore no fat is burned away from the bath, as it is by the overheated portions of a merely greased frying-pan; and, as regards the quantity adhering to the fish itself, this may be reduced to a minimum by withdrawing it from the bath when the whole is uniformly at the maximum cooking temperature, and