Kevin Keener, Ph.D., Food Process Engineer and Extension Specialist with Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN says one of the main problems with deep frying is that the coating tends to absorb a considerable amount of oil. He estimates the average deep fried product picks up 30 to 50 percent of its weight in oil. Even if you drain and pat down the excess oil from deep fried foods, there is still a considerable amount of oil left in the coating.
Keener has come up with what he believes is a healthier alternative to deep frying. He has helped to develop a special oven that uses tungsten halogen emitters (very bright lights) as a source of radiant heat. The oven has ten different heat settings to control the level of energy (heat) going into the food. Different foods require different settings. So researchers have learned to adjust the heat settings to match the same amount of energy used during deep frying. The heat settings can also be adjusted to produce darker or crispier foods.
Keener says halogen frying still requires some oil on or in the food being cooked, but much less than deep frying. He estimates the finished halogen-fried product has 30 to 50 percent less oil. Taste tests show foods cooked in the halogen oven have the same crispy and moist characteristics as similar deep fried foods. An added bonus - the halogen fried foods have more of their natural flavor.
Keener hopes the halogen fryers will eventually be used commercially in fast food and other types of restaurants. One limitation of the halogen fryer is that is can only be used for portion sized products, like chicken strips, fish filets or hash browns (as opposed to frying a whole turkey).