Fry Without Fear

March 12, 2013 | By | Comments (0)
Photo by Gary Clark

Photo by Gary Clark

In The Way To Fry, his new cookbook out this month, Southern Living Test Kitchen pro Norman King demystifies this regional art.

As a curious cook, I rely on science as much as Southern wisdom. Take shallow frying, a technique we’ve improved in five easy steps.

The only equipment you need is a wire rack, tongs, and a heavy skillet, which promotes even browning and a crispy crust as heat radiates up from the bottom of the pan. Think of the recipe for Country Fried Steak (below) as a versatile road map for all sorts of thin cuts, from pork chops and green tomatoes to catfish fillets and chicken cutlets.

The Seasoning

1. The Seasoning

Stir together 1½ cups self-rising white cornmeal mix, 1½ Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano, and ¾ tsp. pepper in a shallow dish. Sprinkle both sides of 4 to 6 cubed steaks (about 1½ lb.) with 1 tsp. kosher salt and ¼ tsp. pepper. Season the dredging mixture and steaks so there’s flavor in every bite.

The 3 Ds

2. The “3 D’S”

Set up a dredging station: Arrange 2 shallow dishes next to the cornmeal mixture. Place 1½ cups each all-purpose flour and low-fat buttermilk (or whole milk) in separate dishes. Then dredge-dip-dredge. Dredge steaks in flour; shake off excess. Dip in buttermilk. Dredge in cornmeal mixture, pressing to adhere.

The Temp

3. The Temp

Proper oil temperature is key to frying right. Try my method. Place 1 bacon slice in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Add 2 cups vegetable oil; cook over medium heat. When the bacon is crisp (about 5 minutes), the oil is at 350°—and flavored. Transfer bacon to paper towels, reserving oil in skillet.

The Fry

4. The Fry

Nestle steaks in skillet, 2 at a time, and fry until golden brown and crisp (3 to 4 minutes per side). The steaks aren’t submerged in oil, so I carefully spoon hot oil over the tops with a metal spoon during the first minute of frying. This promotes even browning on top while the steaks get crispy underneath.

The Drain

5. The Drain

Transfer steaks to a wire rack set over paper towels. Keep warm on wire rack in a jelly-roll pan in a 200° oven. This prevents them from getting soggy while you finish frying the remaining steaks. Crumble bacon, and reserve for gravy. For our favorite gravy recipes, go to southernliving.com/gravy.

Illustrations by Ryan Kelly

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