Breaded fish, crispy tofu, and golden chicken; these are just a few images that come to mind when I think of pan-fried foods. This method yields the textures and flavors we love about deep-fried favorites without having to completely submerge foods in oil.
To pan-fry is simply to cook food in hot, shallow oil. The food is meant to be covered halfway by the oil so when you flip it, both sides are fully and evenly browned. This technique is often used to prepare thinner cuts of meat, like chicken cutlets, fish fillets, and pork chops, but you can also pan-fry potatoes, latkes, tofu, falafel, and other vegetarian fare.
Most pan-fried foods are coated with bread crumbs or flour. The external coating helps to achieve a satisfying crunch and golden brown color. It also provides a seal, allowing the inside to remain moist.
It’s important to cook with an oil that can withstand the heat. Since the food in this cooking method isn’t cut into smaller pieces or frequently stirred (as in sautéing), it’s best to select an oil that won’t easily burn. Grapeseed and coconut oils have a medium-high smoke point, making them a good choice for this type of preparation.
Has all this food talk made you hungry? Break out the frying pan and let’s get cooking!
- Pan out. Place a frying pan over medium heat.
- Oil up. Once the pan gets hot, add enough oil for it will come halfway up the food item.
- Prep. As the oil heats, season and bread your main ingredient. (Breading is best when applied right before it hits the oil.) If the food requires more preparation, such as rolling meatballs, do that before you heat your pan.
- Easy does it. Gently lower your food into the oil. Allow space between the pieces of food to ensure even cooking and browning.
- Go for gold. Let your food sit, without stirring or moving it, until it’s golden brown. Flip and cook on the other side.
- Blot, season, serve. When both sides are golden and the food is cooked through, remove from heat and place on a paper bag or paper towel-lined plate to blot the oil. Sprinkle with salt while it’s still hot. Let cool and enjoy!