Science

Science FryDay Saturday

This past Saturday, I had some people over to my apartment to take part in a very serious scientific study. This blog entry will serve as the equivalent of a tri-fold piece of cardboard entered in the science fair.

Question: Does everything taste better deep-fried?

Hypothesis: Yes. Yes it does.

Experiment: Invite subjects to taste a wide spectrum of foods and judge whether deep-frying improved the taste.

Equipment: A deep fryer was provided, but lacked a necessary electrical cord. To save the experiment, the researchers filled a large pot with approx. 3″ of vegetable oil and set on a stove top burner (medium-high heat). A metal cage scoop was used to lift foods in and out of oil. Subjects were to each bring food items they thought most appropriate to test the hypothesis. Beer was provided by the tester.

Results:

Hostess-brand Twinkie
Twinkies were frozen, sliced, and dipped in batter (heretofore known as “Twinkie Batter”) consisting of flour, milk, and vinegar. First attempt to fry Twinkies was unsuccessful due to poor technique — instead of setting pieces on the cage and lowering into the oil, researchers realized the cage should be submerged first, and pieces dropped directly into oil. Once this hurdle was cleared, 100% of subjects agreed Twinkies taste better deep fried.

Blake Stacey shows off his onion“Blooming” Onion
An entire onion was beautifully sliced and dipped in Twinkie Batter before being carefully slid into the oil. Sadly the onion was too large to be submerged and all the batter came off. Subjects rightfully complained that this was not a fair test of the onion. Onion study was therefore discarded.

Cheese
A soft Portuguese cheese was sliced, rolled up, and chilled. After 20 minutes in the cooling device, the cheese was dunked in Twinkie Batter, rolled in bread crumbs, and dropped in hot oil. In a short amount of time, the cheese liquified and formed a mass of hot greasy goodness. All test subjects agreed that fried cheese was more delicious than non-fried cheese.
Evelyn tries some fried beerBeer
Tester mixed Harpoon IPA, flour, and cinnamon to make a batter, which was funneled into the hot oil a la “funnel cake.” A beer syrup was created using the same IPA and sugar. The beer funnel cake was then dusted with powdered sugar and presented with the syrup as a dipping sauce. The results were unanimously positive; however, when subjects were asked to choose whether the concoction was better than (raw liquid) beer, all were reticent to make a direct comparison. It was agreed that for the purposes of this test, a tie of sorts would be declared as both beer and fried beer are totally awesome.

Candy Bars
Three candy bars were chosen from the Stop & Shop’s “3 for $1” bin and frozen for three hours. Each was then sliced, dipped in Twinkie Batter, and dropped in hot oil. The results were overall positive, with 100% of subjects approving of Three Musketeers and 80% approving of Milky Way. Subjects were evenly split over whether Snickers were better raw or fried.

Toaster Pastries
Frosted strawberry generic brand Pop Tarts were used with no batter coating, as researchers assumed the frosting would be a suitable substitute. 83% of respondents reported that the deep-fried pastry was more delicious than the raw.

Cocoa-flavored Marshmallow Peeps (Bunny-shaped)
Upon opening the package, subject remarked that the Peeps smelled “vile,” possibly biasing the other subjects. The Peeps were first thrown into the oil with no batter, and most subjects refused to touch the runny mess that came out. Of those who did, 30% thought the frying improved the taste. The Peeps were tested again, this time using Twinkie Batter. 0% of subjects preferred this method.

Banana
Bananas were sliced, dipped in Twinkie Batter, and deep-fried. 60% of subjects preferred this method to raw bananas.

Shitaake Mushrooms
Mushroom caps were dipped in leftover beer batter, rolled in bread crumbs, and dropped in oil. They emerged with a golden appearance, and researchers were confidant they would be met with approval — however, in a tremendous surprise, 83% of subjects preferred the mushrooms raw. Further probing revealed that the batter overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the mushrooms. Mushrooms were then fried with no batter, and 100% of tasters agreed frying improved the taste over raw.

Gummi Worms
Red and green gummy worms were dipped in Twinkie Batter and rolled in bread crumbs before being deposited in hot oil. The oil immediately dissolved the worms, leaving red and green-dyed bread crumb husks in their place. Subjects unanimously agreed raw gummi worms were preferable.

Klondike Bar
Klondike Bars (vanilla ice cream surrounded by milk chocolate) were dipped in Twinkie Batter and placed in oil. As the ice cream inside began to lose structural integrity, the bars were removed and served. 75% of subjects preferred fried Klondike Bars to raw.

Tortilla
For the final test, corn and wheat tortillas were fried and presented with cinnamon sugar. 60% of subjects preferred this method to raw tortilla.

Conclusion: The results, particularly those in the gummi worm and Peep tests, suggest that the hypothesis is incorrect. However, further testing is needed to rule out inconsistencies due in part to the researchers’ inexperience with equipment and cooking techniques. Attached, please find a helpful graph illustrating the number of foods tested that were better fried vs. raw. More graphs may be added later as statistics are processed.

Graph #2 shows the number of people who preferred each food raw (inside circle) or fried (outside circle). Thanks, Microsoft Graph!

Graph #3, a handy area chart showing preferences across all food items.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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37 Comments

  1. So, your graph displays the percentage of foods which received a majority of votes for fried? How do you justify your preference for this figure over the raw totals of votes for raw verses votes for fried?

    Science demands tough questions!

  2. Briarking is talking about the Monte Cristo!! If I actually liked Swiss Cheese, I'd totally give that thing a try. But they can't take anything off of it, or put a different bit of cheese on it, or else it will explode in the fryer. I've had that 'confirmed' to me independantly at different Bennigans restaurants.

    Makes me sad, really, because one of the most boring dreams I've ever had involved going to Bennigans and ordering/eating that sandwich, so I've always wanted to try it in honor of that.

    Rebecca, if you play your cards right you can start a new series of internet videos called 'Will it Fry?' to compete with those ubiquitous and quite funny 'Will it Blend?' vids.

  3. If you want food that is deep fried and potentially on a stick, you have got to come to the Minnesota State Fair in late August. They have had deep-fried candy bars for several years now. I had one their first year and I could literally feel my arteries hardening as I ate it. Haven't had one since, but it is a popular stand.

    They also have mini-donuts, deep-fried cheese curds[insert drool here], deep-fried alligator-on-a-stick, and many, many other food items either deep-fried, on-a-stick or both. They also have other food that is served in other, boring ways than deep-fried and/or on-a-stick.

  4. I think the tortillas would have had more votes, but by the time the tortillas were cooked…they ended up tasting like everything from poptarts to Peeps. changing the oil, at least ONCE might have helped, but perhaps I am being picky. Also, if we went to the bar BEFORE the cooking rather than after, results may have been different.

    Also, there was much anxiety at Rebecca was reminded that she once burned down a whole apartment building. (well, the cause is still "under investigation"). Before more testing, I think a kitchen fire extinguisher would be a good purchase.

    And the horse dance, while the story ranks up there with one of the best I have ever heard, I think Rebecca actually performing the horse dance (2nd place winner people) would make the party even more exciting..

  5. If you ever make it to Scotland, a perennially popular item on many Fish and Chip shop menu is deep fried battered Mars bar. It is an acquired taste but I quite like the odd one when I occasionally travel North of the border. But it is a cardiologist's nightmare, for combined with the Scottish love of fried food in general, such delicacies probably account for the Scottish having one of the highest rates of heart attacks iin the world.

  6. Expatria said,

    Briarking is talking about the Monte Cristo!!

    Yeah, that's it! I couldn't come up with the name of it. Most of my friends have tried it and really liked it. It just seems nasty to me so I have no desire to try it. Maybe you could get the cheese off of it when you get it. I think it's like fried ice cream in that the outside is fried while the inside stays cool. So the cheese may be removable.

    I do wish you hadn't mentioned in front of Rebecca that altering ingredients causes explosions! There goes another Apartment building. ;)

  7. I remember reading about some guy constructing a 30,000 calorie sandwich, for which most of the components had been individually fried or deep-fried. He commented that it took him 15 hours to eat it. (Note that by "normal" standards, that would have been some 15 days worth of fuel.)

    Perhaps a minor modification of the hypothesis would be in order — "most things which actually survive the frying process, taste better fried." ;)

    Oh, and no thinly sliced root vegetables? For shame! :-) For that matter, a number of other fruits have frying potential. Hmm…. has anyone tried fried avocado?

  8. As a jobbing statistician, can I just say: EVIL 3D PIE CHARTS MUST DIE!!!

    Pie charts are bad enough, but 3D pie charts? They prove you really are Satan!

    I have to agree. ALL 3D charts are bad, unless they really need to represent a third axis.

    Also, the statistical analysis here looks weak. She's just discussing descriptive statistics, which are meaningless with such a small sample size. She should really be doing hypothesis testing via some kind of paired study and nonparametric analyses. Also, her sampling technique, which appears to be arbitrary rather than random, calls the whole study into question.

    And she calls herself a skepchick. Hmph!

  9. For shame, Rebecca. This friendly get-together at your apartment should have had higher standards of scientific rigor! I can't believe my fry basket doo-dad was tainted by such pseudoscience!

    p.s. I found the cord! It was in the box that the fryer came in. :/

  10. So how about a simple, horizontal bar graph? You know, like the TAM4 workshop showed us is the best one to use on all but a few rare occasions:

    Every food item on the left side of the graph, and then two bars beside each one, for unfried and fried, in … I don't know, yellow and red for example. Then at the bottom the number of people who preferred it. Or if you insist, the percentage.

  11. Hmm last weekend I tried my hand at pan frying chicken and apples.

    Frying pan was filled with ¤75 inch of cooking oil.

    Chicken was cleaned and sliced in 4" long slices.

    Batter made from Corn flour, Wheat flour water and 1 egg. (seasoned with dried time,basil,rosemary, parsley cayenne pepper and salt.)… oh and just a hint of dry yeast.

    a dry flour mix made from corn clour and wheat flour with salt and dried herbs was prepared for the chicken (so th batter would stick)

    Apples were peeled and sliced into 8 pieces each, put in a pot with sugar and cinnamon.

    Apples were fired first, batter didn't stick all that good on them… maybe I should have had a prepared dry flour mix for them.

    Chicken was fried. Worked like a charm.

    Everyone at the dinner enjoyed their food.

    .

    .

    .

    And from the left over oil.. I will make soap. :D

  12. That circle graph is seriously blowing my mind. I finally get that damned passage from Ezekiel that the UFOlogists are always on about. It's not a flying saucer, it's a circle graph! Ezekiel had a vision of Microsoft Office!

    STREETLIGHT! Why didn't I see it before?

    /me falls down to his knees and (re)converts to Christianity

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