There is really no shortage of bad food out there – probably around 80% of what you can buy at grocery stores or restaurants is harmful to you in some way. Some items merely require caution – and very close attention to their source and quality. Some others, however, fall into the “really bad foods” category – no matter where or how you get it.
One common type of such really bad food has more to do with the cooking method used, rather than the ingredients – because if you use this cooking method, you can easily destroy even the healthiest product and turn it into poison.
The cooking method we are talking about is deep-frying. It is used extensively by restaurants and also, to a large extent – by home cooks, with a wide variety of home-use deep-fryers available on the market.
While the chefs (and sometimes even the scientists who are behind the modernist cuisine movement) have been focusing primarily on perfecting sensory characteristics of deep-fried food (such as French fries) – perfect crisp, creamy center, even color – the health impact of those deep-fried foods has not been in the center of attention much. And when it has – the focus was on all the wrong things – and changes introduced as a result had the opposite effect.
For instance, until 1990s, fast food restaurants (think McDonald’s) used to deep-fry their French fries in beef tallow. But as a result of fear-mongering around saturated fat and cholesterol it was replaced by a mixture of plant-based and chemically-extracted oils.
Since then, the matter has only gotten worse. These days, with the variety of techniques and equipment, people can (and do) deep fry anything – which typically happens in the same plant oil medium. Most ethnic cuisines (or at least what is represented as such in the Western world) have some staple deep-fried foods to brag about – Indian samosas, Spanish churros, Chinese spring rolls, Middle Eastern falafel, Japanese tempura or the all-American French fries and onion rings are just a few examples. But there is really no limit to what else you can deep-fry – anything goes and the choices range from jelly beans, Mars bars and Oreos to silkworms and even such oddities as Coca Cola or ice cream.
It is understandable why deep-fried food is hard to resist – this cooking technique definitely creates something very appealing for the human palate. Food that is crispy and crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and infused with flavors originating from the Maillard reaction and caramelization of sugars awakens cravings that seem to be hardwired into our brains.
“Tasty”, however, doesn’t always mean “healthy”. In fact, deep-fried foods are probably the pinnacle of “unhealthy”. Deep-fried food is the worst foods to eat in a restaurant, period – and a lot of the reasons behind this statement might sound new to you, until you read them below.
What makes deep-fried food such a bad food? There is no shortage of arguments – let’s look at a few.