How to Fry For One
Cooking for a crowd has its obvious challenges—but cooking for just yourself definitely presents its own unique conundrums. Sometimes it doesn’t seem worth it to pull out multiple pots, pans, ingredients, and containers just for your normal, daily eating, and when you’re stuck in a routine, working in fun cooking techniques can fall by the wayside.
One such predicament: When the chance craving for a perfectly crisp, indulgent fried food hits, it’s a hassle to whip up dredging and heat up oil to fry one or two chicken cutlets, or just a couple fritters. And it’s not like frying is some great meal prep move, considering your DIY-fried foods are generally never as appealing the next day. Thankfully, these slight adjustments make the process run smoother, cleaner, and faster, which is just what you need to make that occasional single-serve, fried food a reality.
DO consider shallow frying or pan-frying.
Not only will a shallow pan use considerably less oil than a traditional deep-frying method, you won’t need to break out a large, deep pot, like a Dutch oven, that can be a pain to drain and clean. Frying pans are easier to handle, will heat up quickly, and can create a satisfying crispy, crunchy texture. Pour just enough oil to submerge one side of the food, and don’t crowd the pan. You can also opt for a high-sided cast-iron skillet and add a bit more oil—enough to just cover your food items—to “shallow fry.” This frying technique is great for chicken, fritters, and chicken fried steak.
DON'T just use whatever oil you have on hand.
If you’re regularly cooking for only yourself, you most likely don’t have a massive assortment of oils on hand—but don’t reach for that bottle of extra-virgin olive oil for this job. Its low smoke point means that it will start to burn quickly, making your food taste bitter and leaving your kitchen full of smoke. Make the effort to purchase an oil with a higher smoke point: Peanut and canola oils are good, neutral-flavored options.
DO make more dredging than you think you’ll need.
It can be tempting to skimp on the dredging, especially if you’re cooking for just yourself—but for the best, crispy, golden-brown exterior, you need a little extra so that it properly coats the food. If you’re frying veggies, you can continue frying more vegetables until you use up the dredging, but if you’re working with meat, go ahead and toss the excess.
DON'T try to eye-ball doneness.
It can be tempting to guesstimate the brownness of your food in order to gauge doneness—especially if you’re only frying a couple things. But, you can’t judge solely by the exterior. Especially when it comes to poultry, what looks perfectly golden brown on the outside may still be raw on the interior. Heat your oil over medium-high heat to about 350 to 375 degrees, using a thermometer to help you maintain a consistent oil temperature throughout the cooking process. Use a meat thermometer to check that glorious fried chicken before biting in; the inside should read 165 degrees.
DO pat food dry before frying.
One of the biggest pains of frying food is the oil splatter. While some splatter is inevitable (careful!), patting your meat and veggies dry with a clean paper towel means less moisture will come in immediate contact with the oil, which means less popping. Another tip: Cover up your other burners as you’re frying so that you’re not in for a smoky surprise when you turn them on the next time—the oil splatters will burn the next time you crank up the heat.
Ready to get frying? Here are some recipes to get started with:
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