Cooking Class: Pan-Frying

Cooking Class: Pan-Frying

Learn to cook covetously crispy, crunchy entrées and sides.

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Breading amounts

As you prepare these recipes, you’ll notice we call for more breading ingredients than will actually stick to the food. (You’ll discard whatever is left over.) Having more than you need makes it easier to coat the food. Plus, it’s hard―and messy―to add additional breadcrumbs or flour once you’ve started the process.

Although it has become our standard recipe style to call for flour as exact weight measurements, these recipes are an exception. For a cake recipe, using a little more or less flour than specified can mean a dry, tough result or a cake that doesn’t rise. For breading, though, the exact amount matters less.

Fats for frying

Choose oil with a neutral flavor―such as canola oil, regular olive oil, or peanut oil―that can withstand moderately high heat. Flavorful oils such as extra-virgin olive oil or dark sesame oil may burn or create harsh flavors in the food. Butter may also burn at high temperatures but can work over medium-high heat for shorter cook times, or over medium heat for longer periods. To prevent food from sticking, heat the pan first and then add the oil or butter.


For the crunchiest texture, it helps to start many foods on medium-high heat to initiate browning, then reduce the heat to allow it to finish cooking more slowly. Other recipes will be successful using medium-high or medium heat for the entire cook time; follow the recipe’s specific instructions.

Allow some breathing room

Take care not to overcrowd the pan, as doing so lowers the temperature and may cause food to stick. It may also hinder evaporation as the food cooks, creating steam in the bottom of the pan and ultimately a soggy crust.

Do not disturb

Be aware that the side you put down in the pan first will look the best, so place the food in the pan presentation side down. For chicken breasts, this means the rounded side; for fish fillets, it’s the rounded rib side (not the skin side). To make sure the coatings stay on the food, turn it only once as it cooks. Disturbing it too soon may cause the breading to fall off or stick to the pan.

Serve immediately

Pan-fried offerings are best just after they’re cooked, when they are hot and crunchy.

The bottom line

The three most important elements to remember about pan-frying:

1. Do not overcrowd the pan.

2 Cook the food shortly after applying the coatings.

3 Turn the food only once as it cooks.

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