Crispy Pan-Fried Chicken
In this mission, we’ll focus on two things: how to cook with a stainless steel pan so there’s zero sticking (It’s amazing and totally possible!), and how to control heat like a pro. We’ll practice by pan-frying chicken thighs. The result will be drool-worthy, juicy meat with golden-brown skin, ready in less than 15 minutes!
Now, if you don’t have a stainless steel pan, not to worry. This mission will also work with cast iron and non-stick skillets. The only difference lies in how you control the heat, which we’ll get to in detail in the mission walkthrough itself.
Pan-frying is a high-heat cooking technique that uses a thin layer of oil to fry the outside of meat or breaded vegetables. It’s ideal for relatively small pieces of food that can cook through to the center in a short amount of time. The main advantage of pan-frying is that It gets you that nice crisp, browned flavor on the outside of your food, without the mess of deep-frying. Plus it’s relatively fast compared to, say, baking. This makes it one of my favorite techniques for the summer months, when you just can’t have the stove on for that long.
But why chicken thighs? They’re one of the best cuts of meat, that’s why! They are relatively inexpensive, very forgiving (they don’t dry out easily like breast meat), and they have that beguiling layer of skin that crisps right up in the pan. You can buy either the bone in or deboned version. Just make sure it’s not skinless, or you will be experiencing some serious FOMO by the end of this mission.
Finally, a word on oil. Different oils tolerate different temperature levels, and in this mission, we want one that can handle the searingly high temperatures (in the 400-500˚ F range) of pan-frying. Some oils, like extra virgin olive oil, break down over high temperature, releasing a lot of smoke and forming cancer-causing compounds (yikes). Others are sturdier. These are the more refined, relatively flavorless oils like sunflower, safflower, canola, avocado, or clarified butter. They can stand up to the high heat, because they contain less “stuff” in them that can burn. So choose one of those.
Okay! Got your pan of choice, oil of choice, and chicken thighs? Let’s cook!
stainless steel skillet (preferred); cast-iron or non-stick are fine too
skin-on chicken thighs
canola oil or other high-heat oil (sunflower, avocado, coconut, safflower)
salt and pepper to taste
Lesson Gallery... Yum yum.
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