Frying 101: How to Achieve the Perfect Crunch on Just About Anything
What is Frying?
To fry, is to cook food in hot fat, approximately 325-375 °F, over medium high heat. Because this method utilizes fat to cook the product, rather than the pan, it’s considered a dry-heat cooking method.
Fried foods have a richly textured crust and moist favorable interior…but you probably knew that already.
Two Kinds of Frying: Pan and Deep
- Pan frying, or shallow frying, uses more fat than you would when sautéing foods. The pan should be filled to about half the thickest part of the product.
- Deep frying totally submerges the product in fat, either using a basket or the “swimming method” where the product, or products, float around without any containment.
Creating Your Crust
One of the best results of frying foods is the crunchy texture that forms on the outside of the product, and here’s how you get it…
Start by choosing 6-8 ounce portion sizes or smaller. Make sure each piece of your product is uniform for even frying. The nice thing about frying is that pretty much anything can be fried…poultry, meat, seafood, dough, candy bars, cookies, twinkies, butter…
Yep! That’s what I said, and if you’ve ever been to a state fair or carnival, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to fry, you have a couple options for creating your crust:
#1: Standard breading procedure goes flour, egg wash, then crumbs, cornmeal, crackers, or flakes in that order. This method is primarily used when pan frying.
Use three different vessels for each of your three steps – one holding flour, the second with egg wash, and the third for the crunchy texture of your choice.
#2: Batters, or wet coatings, typically use a mixture of fluid and starch – milk, buttermilk, and beer are some of the most common. Batters are used exclusively in deep frying.
#3: Flour then batter — which can help the batter stick better to the product and is my recommendation for deep frying.
#4: Flour alone — although you won’t get that optimal crunchy coating you may want. If you’re only going to flour, I suggest upping the flavor with a good dose of seasonings.
Chef Gerrie’s Frying Tips:
- For added flavor and juiciness you can brine your product before frying. For example, soak, or brine, chicken pieces in buttermilk and hot sauce over night for a spicy, but subtle kick to your fried chicken.
- After dredging your product in flour, shake off the excess to avoid a gummy flour taste and sogginess in the final dish.
- If you’re using breadcrumbs or some other crunchy topping make sure to completely cover the product to seal in the flavor.
- Get creative with your breading – bread crumbs aren’t your only option. Try panko crumbs, cracker crumbs, corn flakes, and/or tortilla chips crumbled.
- When pan frying, place your product’s “pretty side” down first to develop an even, golden brown crust for plate presentation. Use a spatula to turn over, trying to keep the un-browned crust intact.
- Don’t crowd the pan with too many products. Not only will it be difficult to turn everything over, but even spacing helps the oil and the pan stay hot.
- When using the swimming method in deep frying, use a spider, or wired mesh skimmer/ladle with a long handle to turn, or move product(s) in the oil.
- After frying, using either method, keep the finished product crunchy by letting cool on a wire rack with vessel to catch excess grease runoff.
- Pair your final fry with a complimentary sauce for dipping.
I’m dying to hear what and how you guys fry. Let me know what brine or marinades you use, how you like to bread, and what’s your favorite method of frying? Add your comments in the section below or on my Facebook page, Chef Gerrie.