Can a fryer be more than just a pot of hot oil? Yes, it can. It can be the universal cooking tool for a cook who is “in the weeds.” I once had a cook who would throw whatever he could into the fryer: crab legs, lobster tails, fillets, rib-eyes and even “pan-roasted" chicken breast.
He even had a motto for getting out of the weeds: “Toss that ship into the fryer.”
For clarification, “in the weeds” describes a cook who is overwhelmed by the tickets in front of her or him. Ever wait 45 minutes for an appetizer? You can bet that the cook who was putting together the crab cakes was in the weeds.
The best tool in an industrial kitchen for getting out of the weeds is a fryer. Why? Because it can cook damn near anything. Need a steak at well-done in five minutes? Drop it in the fryer for four minutes and then slap it on the grill. Ta-da. Have a pasta that needs clams that the sous chef forgot to fire? Into the fryer they go. When you hear a pop-pop-pop sound, they have all opened up. Toss the pasta and clams in sauce and the dish is done.
If you see that your “pan-roasted” chicken has even browning all over the surface, not just two sides, your food has been tossed into the fryer. And I recommend that you enjoy.
The best part about a fryer is that it does such a good job cooking. The hot fat seals in all the juices and caramelizes the food evenly. I personally think the fine dining world should more actively embrace the fryer. But, alas, the fryer has a working-man's history, so most chefs would rather do it the hard way and "pan-roast."