Panfrying is an easy and straightforward dry cooking method that is used all over the world, giving us such great foods as breaded pork chops and chicken cutlets.
Panfrying allows you to get dinner on the table more quickly than several of the other cooking methods that we have or will be discussing…as long as you prepare as much as possible before throwing the first pork chop into the oil…and as long as the food that you will be cooking is actually food suited for this cooking method.
Panfrying simply involves cooking food in a heavy pan containing a small amount of hot oil over moderate heat until it is brown on one side, then flipping it over so that the other side browns also.
The oil should only cover half of the food’s height, unlike deep frying where the food is completely suspended in oil. The fact that the food actually touches the bottom of the pan means that the crust will be even darker than if it had been floating in the oil.
Panfried foods are often covered with some sort of breading before being added to the hot oil…(more on this later)…
This layer creates a barrier that prevents the oil from soaking into the food and making it greasy
As food is panfried, the moisture contained in the inside part of the meat turns into steam and then has a battle with the very hot oil surrounding it. The steam fights to keep the oil out, while the oil fights to keep the moisture in.
Actually I was a little puzzled about why frying would be considered as a “dry cooking method” even though the food is cooked in liquid.
Supposedly this is the case because oil is actually a fat that contains no water at all.
Even though both oil and water are liquids, oil behaves much differently than water.
Fewer flavor compounds found in food dissolve in oil. This means that foods cooked in oil are less likely to lose their flavor than those same foods cooked in water.
Save water for making stocks and broths, since so much of the flavor originally found in the food will be dissolved into the water anyway..
The goal of panfrying is to maintain a moist interior while at the same time creating a crisp, tasty, golden-brown crust, Pan-fried foods are favored for these browned surfaces, crisp coatings, and tender interiors.
Panfrying is an effective way to not only retain the moisture and tenderness that these cuts of meat such as pork chops should have, but also to add rich, caramelized flavor.
Food that has been panfried correctly should have a moist interior and a crispy exterior that you refuse to share with anybody.
One primary difference between panfrying and sauteeing, that we talked about in this previous post, is that panfrying uses lower heat.
This lower heat is important because panfrying involves cooking whole pieces of meat, not food that has already been cut into smaller pieces before cooking. If your temperature is too high, the exterior of the food will overcook while the interior of the food will be undercoked…(ever cut into a hot piece of chieken only to find that the interior is still pink)…
In these next few posts, we will discuss the right equipment, the proper oils, which foods are best for panfrying…and how frying food can be done so that it isn’t quite as bad for my diabetic husband and my own big fat butt…