Pointers on Pan Frying
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These Pan Frying tips are based on the Smart Kitchen’s Lesson Introduction to Cooking Methods, Topic 2 Dry Heat – Exercise 15: Pan Frying. The information below is additional tips and not the bulk of the lesson.

Culinary Uses

The main tips to keep in mind when Pan Frying are:

  • Watch Your Heat: too much heat can burn your food. Too little and your food will soak up the fat.
  • Use even sized pieces if you are Pan Frying pieces of product.
  • Have your ingredients ready before lighting the burner.
  • Maintain Medium Heat (listen for the sizzle) at all times.
  • Circulate your product (turn) from time to time to promote even browning.

Some additional tips Pan Frying tips are:

Don’t cover your Pan Fry unless your recipe specifically instructs you to do so. Depending on the base product, trapped steam can soften your Pan Fried products instead of imparting a crisp exterior. Don’t overcrowd the pan or clump your ingredients all in at once. Spread the food in a single layer so each bite size piece has exposure to the cooking surface. If they are too close, the ingredients won't cook evenly.

Excessive movement hinders the formation of a good sear. For meat or starchy products (like potatoes), try not to move the product too much until you have achieved the golden crust of a good sear.

When Pan Frying vegetables, you should consider the vegetable’s moisture content. Contrary to how we season most everything else when we Pan Fry, you may want to season moister vegetables at the beginning of the Pan Fry to dry them out. As the moisture evaporates over the heat, stir or turn your ingredients more often to maintain even browning.

For some drier vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, or cauliflower season them near the end of the Pan Fry to preserve moisture which will keep them from going limp. Another good solution for drier vegetables, might be to blanch them first so that when Pan Fried, they more quickly cook through evenly and thoroughly. Equivalent sized pieces of vegetable like zucchini and carrots will cook differently. There harder denser carrot will take longer to Pan Fry. Harder or more fibrous vegetables, like root vegetables, including carrots, may even need to be cut in smaller pieces to promote thorough cooking, so that the center is done when the crust has formed. If Pan Fried all together, introduce the food in reverse order of their cook times; longer cooking items in first, shorter cook time items in last. An exception to this rule, is if your first ingredients are aromatics (like Garlic or Ginger), intended to share their flavor with the other ingredients. The aromatics should go in first but watch the heat as they are generally delicate.

For starchier foods like potatoes, season the foods near the end of the Pan Fry to retain moisture and to prevent the golden crust from softening. Only stir or toss starchier ingredients once the golden crust has formed to seal in moisture. Once they are golden, you can even turn down the heat and allow them to cook through more slowly.

If Pan Frying red meat, try to stick with the only the most tender cuts. Because Pan Fry is a dry heat method, tough cuts will become tougher. Thin cut Filet Mignon or Strip Steak work well but Shank or Brisket may not. The reason the thick cuts, even if tender, don’t work with a Pan Fry is that by the time the center cooks through the exterior will be charred past edibility. This doesn’t mean you can’t start the tougher or thicker cuts in the Pan Fry Pan to sear them and finish with another technique. Just don’t expect good results if you try to cook tough or thick cuts all the way through with a Pan Fry.  With proteins, like starches, let a good crust form before stirring or turning the meat. The oil also helps with the sear.

 If you are Pan Frying a variety of items together, make them equivalent sizes to ensure even cooking.  As with the vegetables, start the longer cook time ingredients before the shorter cooking ingredients. An exception would, again, be any aromatics.