With their crisp, shattering crusts, who doesn’t love perfectly fried foods? The best way to ease into frying at home is by pan frying, which you can do in your sauté pan with a relatively small amount of oil. Pan frying is a great method for cooking thinner pieces of food like fish fillets, fritters, eggplant slices for eggplant Parmesan, pounded veal or chicken cutlets, or even bone-in chicken pieces.
Secrets to Successful Pan Frying
Prepare the food: pat dry the food to be fried and season as desired, then dip it in your batter or coating.
Set up a landing spot: set a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet or paper towel–lined plate next to the stove so you have a place to transfer the fried food.
Choose and heat the fat: these days, most people fry with oils that can handle high heat, like canola oil, pure olive oil, or peanut oil, but you can also go with shortening or, even more traditional, lard. Add enough oil to reach about halfway up the sides of the food and heat it to about 350°F, or until it shimmers. To test the oil, use an instant-read thermometer or carefully dip a corner of the breaded food into the oil. When the oil is at the right temperature, it will bubble vigorously around the food.
Add the food: to get the best crust, carefully add the food to the oil in a single layer without any pieces touching each other. Work in batches if necessary.
Fry, maintaining the temperature: fry the first side of the food until the crust is golden brown, moving it around if necessary to even out the cooking. Try to keep the temperature between 325°F and 350°F. If the oil cools too much, the crust absorbs more oil than it should and becomes soggy. If the oil gets too hot, the crust can burn before the food cooks through.
Flip: use tongs or a wire skimmer to gently turn the food. Fry until the second side is also golden and the food is cooked through or reaches the desired temperature. Remember that the food’s internal temperature will likely rise about 5°F after you remove it from the oil.
Drain and cool: transfer the food to your prepared wire rack or plate and let cool slightly before serving.
If you need to work in batches, fried foods can be placed on a wire rack and kept warm in a 200°F oven while you finish cooking. If your oven has a convection setting, even better. It will keep the crust crisper.
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