Instead of a frit-ter you mean? No, it can’t. I know, there’s a certain contingent of food alarmists out there that is forever seeking to de-joy life’s most elemental pleasures, but there’s simply no cooking technique out there that rivals frying for things like fritters or doughnuts. Oh yes, I can just hear some of them out there now: You’re just saying that because like every other flabby American you’re addicted to fat, Mr. Lardo. But the truth is that frying isn’t about eating fat so much as it is about cooking in it. For foods cooked in fat possess properties unlike any others.
When frying is done well, which is to say at the proper temperature with reasonably fresh oil, it is actually much closer to steaming. Immersed into a hot, dense environment, deep fried foods take in more heat faster than foods cooked by other methods. The effect is to turn any water they contain — almost instantaneously — to steam. What does that do? Well, for the exterior, the outrush of moisture creates an insta-dried (read: crispy) skin. For the interior it means lightning-fast steam cooking that leaves the interior tender, moist and (in the case of bready items) fluffy. That unique combination of crispiness and tenderness/fluffiness can be found nowhere else in kitchendom.
Sure you can replicate the steam cooking by, well, steaming your fritter. But then being such a wet cooking method, there’s zero hope it’ll end up crispy. What about the oven? The trouble there is that by the time you got the outside of your fritter crispy, the inside is a dried, mummified husk. Nope, if you want crispy-plus-moist (and fluffy), there’s only one place to get it: the deep fryer. What price will you pay? Maybe a teaspoon or so of residual cooking fat for a fried food the size of a doughnut. That’s small, in my estimation, for that inimitable hot and crunchy fried food sensation.