Why are doughnuts fried?
Excellent question Jane G! Just about every culture on Earth has some sort of deep fried dough food item to its credit. Europe? Check. The Arab world? Check. Africa? Check. China, Japan and Southeast Asia? Check, check, check. What’s the deal with that?
The deal is that grain, like most food, tastes best when it’s cooked at high heat. High heat cookery creates browning reactions and caramelization that impart a depth of flavor that foods don’t possess by themselves. Think meat. Boiling water will cook up a porterhouse just fine. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. But browning reactions don’t even begin to occur until temperatures reach 280 or so. Which is why we grill steak. All that heat leads to broken molecules and all sorts of savory, tangy, sweet, even fruity flavors.
The same thing applies to a mass of dough. Sure you can boil it, but how exciting is that? A massive heat infusion in a bath of 375-degree oil, on the other hand…now THAT’s eatin’!