The object of pan-frying is to produce a
flavorful exterior with a crisp, brown crust, which acts as a barrier to
retain juices and flavor. Because the product itself is not browned, the
flavor will be different than if the item has been sauteed. The proper
color depends upon the type of item, the coating that is used and, to a
certain extent, the item's thickness. The color of relatively thin and
delicate meats, fish, shellfish, and poultry should be golden to amber.
Thicker pieces may take on a deeper color, resulting from the longer
cooking time. In all cases, the product should not be extremely pale. As
with sauteing, a lack of color indicates that improper heat levels or the
incorrect pan size were used.
Only naturally tender foods should be
pan-fried and, after cooking, the product should still be tender and
moist. Excessive dryness means the food was allowed to overcook, was
cooked too far in advance and held too long, or was cooked at a
temperature higher than required.
Although this technique shares similarities
with sauteing, it has some important differences. Whereas a sauteed item
is often lightly dusted with flour and quickly cooked over high heat in a
small amount of oil, a pan-fried food is usually coated with batter or
breaded and cooked in a larger amount of oil over less-intense heat. The
product is cooked more by the oil's heat than by direct contact with the
pan. In pan-frying, the hot oil seals the food's coated surface and
thereby locks the natural juices inside instead of releasing them. Because
no juices are released and a larger amount of oil is involved, any
accompanying sauce is made separately.