The Secret to Perfect (Faux) Frying

By , SparkPeople Blogger
You might not find discussions of pan frying or deep fat frying in most cookbooks geared to healthy cooking for obvious reasons. I guess that means that if we want to live a healthy lifestyle we will no  longer enjoy the golden breading color on pieces of cooked Dover sole or the crunch we hear when we bite into a chicken leg coated in a crispy breading. Guess again! If you've said goodbye to those crispy cooked foods--say hello again!  Faux frying creates a lighter version of the pan- or deep-fried foods that we all crave.  It's simple, quick, and easy.  Best of all, your home (and your hair) won't smell of a deep fat fryer for days after the meal. 
First you need to understand the basic breading procedure that produces the golden brown crispy crust on fried or faux fried foods. You can fry almost anything, from chicken to pickles, zucchini to shrimp.   The first step is to make sure your vegetable or protein is completely thawed and patted dry. Then comes a three-part breading process: dry, wet and dry again, which ensures a moist interior and crispy exterior.
Preheat the oven before you start--this is not a do-ahead or take-your-time project.
Coating food in a thin layer of flour will provide a protective barrier and keep the crust from getting soggy.   Swap out white flour for whole wheat flour, or use oat or quinoa flour for a gluten-free breading, then layer in flavor with added seasonings such as paprika, black pepper, or dried herbs.  Dip your to-be-fried food into the flour mixture to coat evenly, then shake off the excess.

Next comes the wet layer. You can use whole eggs, egg whites, or even a thin coat of yogurt. (Though you can season this layer, too, it isn’t necessary.) Work quickly. Just dip the food in and out of the wet mixture--don't let it soak--then shake off any excess. 

The last step before the heat arrives is the crumb crust.  Cover the item to be breaded with the crumbs or corn meal (which is gluten-free), pressing lightly to make sure they are evenly coated. Shake off the excess. 
Get creative with the crust: Panko (Japanese bread crumbs), crumbled wheat bran, or crushed whole wheat crackers work great; so do corn meal and crushed rice cereal. Be sure to add in some flavor: citrus zest and shredded hard cheese like Parmesan, in addition to dried herbs and spices, make tasty additions.  
Don't let your food sit around--cook it immediately.  Once breaded, food can become soggy quickly.     The key to avoiding a sticky gooey mess is to use one hand for the liquid ingredients and the other hand for dry ingredients.
To mimic deep frying and achieve all-around color and texture, follow these easy steps.
  • Cook the breaded item on a cooling rack.  The rack will expose the underside of the breaded item in the oven so the bottom does not get soggy.
  • Preheat oven to 375-425 degrees depending on the item breaded.  The goal is to get the crumb crust brown while at the same time cooking the food to an appropriate temperature.  Thin strips of vegetables can take a higher heat and less cooking time while a chicken leg requires a lower heat and long cooking time.
  • Try a two-step process of sautéing the breaded item first in a nonstick pan coated with cooking spray to get the crumbs crunchy then finish in the oven to cook the inside.
  • Give the breaded item a mist of cooking spray right before it goes in the oven or on the stove top to help along the browning of the crumbs. 
Safety note:  Due to its potentially hazardous ingredients such as eggs and the cross contamination with proteins, breading needs to be treated with care.  Make only small batches of breading and discard any left after use.  Use a separate breading station for vegetables and meats or just make sure you bread the vegetables first.
If you are looking for a new recipe to try out your new faux fry, try my Crunchy Mexican Chicken.  You will be hooked and will wave goodbye to the deep fryer.
Check out these SparkRecipes versions of all your favorite fried foods:
Fried pickles
Jalapeno poppers
Mozzarella sticks
Chicken nuggets and tenders
Fried chicken
What's your favorite food to faux fry? Is there one that you've been dying to make over?
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JULIJULINN 6/24/2021
ty Report
CECELW 5/27/2021
i think i'd like to try this Report
ERIN_POSCH 5/9/2021
thanks for sharing Report
What works for me is to put the layers on the fish then bake it on the top rack at a high temperature. Less fat then pan frying Report
PLCHAPPELL 1/26/2021
Good information Report
MITCHETR192 1/18/2021
Good tips! Thank you! Report
GEORGE815 1/6/2021
Thanks Report
SNUZYQ2 1/6/2021
Great tips! Thank you for sharing! Report
CKOUDSI617 8/19/2020
Very helpful Meg! Thank you! :) Report
My mother was the queen of faux frying. Not for health reasons but because actual frying made such a mess! Report
I use wheat germ for breading, especially when making eggplant parmesan which I love.
Unfortunately tho' this oven baking does not work for fried ice cream but then I shouldn't have it anyway being allergic to dairy. However once in a blue moon I give in if I'm where they make it. Report
thanks Report
I don't eat anything fried but fish. Haven't eaten fried chicken in about 10 years. Report
I'm eager to try this with chicken, and also the above mentioned onion rings! Report
Great info! Report
thanks Report
My favorite food to bake is chicken. I crumble up corn flakes and bake it. Report
Thank you! Report
Great moves! Thanks! Report
Great ideas! Thanks! Report
He who would do great things should not attempt them all alone. - Seneca proverb ~ 4/12/18 Report
Absolutely Report
thank you Report
great information Report
Thanks Report
thanks Report
Good to know Report
Good to know Report
The links to the SP recipes aren't working???? Report
interesting Report
Yummy to fried foods I like. Report
Thanks for sharing Report
good suggestions Report
I grew up with "fried" chicken baked in the oven with a coat of cornflake crumbs. Still my favorite breading for faux frying. Report
I like zucchini with with some mustard in the wet layer or dry ranch powder and Panko on the outside. Report
I'm not a big pork chop lover, but my husband likes them, so I do this with pork chops. They are actually delicious. Report
Made this tonight with Flax cereal as the coating (ground up with some spice) and plain Greek yogurt (forgot that it was so thick LOL) mixed with some pineapple juice as the binder. Excellent onion rings! Can't wait to try it on chicken next week. Report
I can't wait to try it!! I think I am going to try it tonight and I will not let my family know that "it's not fried" Am I telling my age? Report
I use skim milk for my liquid, and I also toast my breadcrumbs on a cookie sheet before I coat the meat. It really seals in the moisture and helps prevent it from getting soggy. Report
I grew up with my Mother's fried chicken. Don't know how she did it but it was always so nice and tender with a crisp outer - never greasy.
I do not fry any meats - oven bake or grill all.

Thanks for the informative article - will certainly try your ideas. Report
thank you so much for this info. I am from the south and grew up with fried food and really miss it! Can't wait to try this out. Report
This blog is GOLDEN! I love to cook healthy and faux frying will become a part of my weekly cooking methods....with a lot of veggies! Thanks for a valuable blog, Chef Meg! You are now my #1 fave healthy chef! WOO HOO! Report
This method even works well with onion rings. Report
I use buttermilk instead of eggs as my wet ingredient and often use matzo meal for breading. As a side note I bake all my bacon on a raised rack, that way the fat drains away from the bacon itself making it crisper and reducing the fat. Report
Hi all. I am not much of a cook but trying to learn to make lower calorie versions such as this great non fry breaded recipe. A little unclear about what to make 'bread crumbs' from. Ideally I like the breaded type that shake n bake used to taste like. I wish I could make my own that tastes like that.. Report
I don't think I have ever deep fried anything. I oven fry chicken, pork chops and my favorite--eggplant, for parm. Just slice the eggplant very thin and turn the oven up to 400 F. Report
I will definitely try this. I don't fry anything anymore. This sounds like a great treat, without all of the calories. Thanks Report