I was reading about frying in On Food And Cooking this weekend and it mentions that frying works so much better than oven cooking because oil has a far higher specific heat than air so it is able to transfer that heat to the food being cooked much faster than an oven. It then went on to mention that oil has significantly less heat storage capacity than water - according to this specific heat table, it looks like water has around 2.5 times the heat capacity as most oils. This got me thinking about whether there’d be any way to “deep fry” something in water. What I mean by “deep fry” in water is - get the water up around the temperature you’d get in a deep fryer, and then drop some food in. This way you’d get the same temperature as the oil, and therefore hopefully you’d have the same Maillard reactions, but none of the oilyness from frying. I’d like to give this a try. but there are a few important hurdles I’d have to get over first and I’m wondering if anyone here has any guidance. around a few questions this raises:
I did some calculations and it looks like I’d have to get the pressure up to around 70 psi above atmospheric pressure in order to get the water up around 155C - Probably I’d want to go a bit higher than this in practice. It doesn’t seem to be out of the realm of possibility that a pressure cooker could exist that could handle this kind of pressure (bicycle tires go a lot higher than this), but I only see pressure cookers that go up to around 15psi. Do pressure cookers that handle this high of pressure exist? Otherwise, might there be other kitchen-sized industrial equipment that could achieve this high of pressure and temperature?
Can I expect a maillard reaction to occur at high pressure, or will the pressure make the reaction require relatively higher temperature and therefore preclude it from occuring?
Can I expect a maillard reaction to occur under water? Everythíng I read about the maillard reaction mentions that it will only happen after the water on the surface of the food evaporates specifically because water keeps the temperature too low. This makes sense at standard pressures, but will the water in and of itself make the maillard reaction difficult or impossible (since one of the outputs of maillard is more water), or is the water mentioned ONLY because it keeps the temperature so low. All of the references I've found that say water deters the reaction specifically state that this is because of the temperature factor.
Is there any chance that I’d get any crisping through this process? I’m thinking that if I depressurize the food while the surface is superheated (obviously I’d have to figure out a way to get it out of the water bath first), I’d get some amount of the water in the surface boiled away as the pressure dropped, and thus some crisping. Might this work?
Obviously I’d have to set up a pretty crazy rig inside the pressure cooker to get the water and food pressurized without significantly cooking the food in the process, then have a setup inside the pressure cooker that drops the food into the water at a given temperature, and then pulls it back out after a set time. I’m thinking that my first step would be to get a super-high-pressure pressure cooker and drop some chicken into it, get it up to 160C or so, cool it and see what I get. It’d be way way overcooked I’m sure, but I think I’d be able to tell if I could get any reasonable browning in water, and proceed from there if the results were favorable.
I'd really appreciate any insight, either from experience with pressure cooking of non-traditionally-pressure-cooked foods, or other experience, or possibly from understanding more about how maillard works and what I would expect at high pressure and submerged.