Tips on the Shallow-frying Method

Get the Inside Skinny So Your Fried Chicken and Fish Are Crispy and Brown

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My Mom's Baked Fried Chicken. Linda Larsen

Just about everyone loves fried food -- fried chicken, fried pork chops, fried bacon, fried fish, smashed and fried burgers ... the list is endless and mostly reflects a list that could be titled "favorite foods," even if not "most healthy foods."

In shallow-frying, also called pan-frying, a small amount of oil is put into a saucepan, the oil is heated, and then the food is added and cooked. Technically, shallow-frying means that the food is partially submerged in oil.

It differs from sauteing, in which less oil is used and the food is stirred or moved around constantly. In shallow frying, the food must sit undisturbed for a few minutes in the pan so a crust can form and the food can brown properly.

Knowing the inside skinny makes all fried foods come out perfectly browned and with just the right amount of crispiness.

Tips on Shallow-Frying

  • To successfully shallow-fry, the oil must be hot enough so the food sizzles as soon as it hits the pan, but not so hot that the outside becomes brown while the inside does not cook through. The temperature of the fat for most shallow frying should be around 375 F.
  • The food should be dry or coated in a batter, flour or breadcrumbs for best results. Think fried chicken and fish; virtually all recipes call for some kind of coating. Adding food that is wet makes the oil spatter, and the food will not brown well.
  • To test the temperature of the oil, you can use a thermometer, or you can drop a bit of water into the pan. If the water sizzles and evaporates immediately, the oil is ready to use. You can also drop a cube of bread into the oil. A 1-inch cube should brown in about 40 seconds when the oil temperature is around 375 F.
  • When the oil is at the correct temperature, foods do not absorb much of it when they are fried. 
  • Breaded foods should stand on a wire rack at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before frying so the coating has time to set and dry a bit. Battered foods can be coated and put into the oil immediately.
  • Use a pan with straight sides that are at least 2 inches tall; the sides of the pan should rise about 1 1/2 inches above the oil.
  • Don't crowd the pan because this reduces the oil temperature too much, and the food might steam instead of fry.
  • When the food is ready to turn, the sound of frying diminishes, and bubbles go down dramatically. The food will be well-browned. Use tongs or a spatula to turn the food and cook on the other side until it is also browned to a turn. 
  • Use an instant-read food thermometer to check the temperature of the food. Beef should be at least 140 F; white meat chicken. 160; dark meat chicken. 165; fish. 140; and pork. 145.
  • Drain the fried food on paper towels as soon as it comes out of the oil. If necessary, keep the food warm in a 200 F oven.