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I just cooked some breaded tilapia. The breading consists mostly of panko. As per my "chef" training, to bread it, I did the usual:

  • Dusted the fish in flour first
  • Dipped it in egg next
  • Dredged it in panko last

I fried about 4-5 pieces with maybe 1/4" of oil in a non-stick frying pan -- gas stove (medium burner, medium heat). I'm surprised that by the time I finished the fourth piece of fish, I had to put more oil.

I thought the addition of flour, and the fairly high heat, should have prevented the fish from absorbing oil. I don't think the oil was too cold, because after I flipped the fish (two minutes on one side), the panko looked golden brown and a touch burned.

What did I do wrong?

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I don't think that you made something wrong, the panko will absorbe oil –  Dr.Molle Sep 5 '13 at 1:36
    
@Dr.Molle that's not what I learned. According to my classes, the right combination of hot oil and flour before egg/crumbs should prevent the food from absorbing much oil. –  ashes999 Sep 5 '13 at 1:57
    
preventing the food from absorbing much oil doesn't mean that it didn't absorbe any oil. furthermore there will be oil on the surface(put the fish on a towel and you will see it) –  Dr.Molle Sep 5 '13 at 2:15
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There will always be some oil absorption, but it is minimized with good temperature control. You need 1) an infrared thermometer (or lots of experience) to keep the oil at 185 celsius, and 2) lots of oil (so it won't cool down the moment the cold fish hits it and get absorbed while slowly getting to optimal temperature). –  rumtscho Oct 6 '13 at 9:34
    
@rumtscho please convert your comment into an answer. –  ashes999 Oct 6 '13 at 19:10
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1 Answer

It's not the fish absorbing most of the oil, it's the breading. When you cook something starchy in oil, it's going to absorb SOME of the oil. Using high heat minimizes the amount of oil that it will absorb, but it's always going to absorb some. Furthermore, panko has a lot of surface area. Some of the oil is just going to get carried out of the pan on the surface of the breading, which will probably drip or be blotted off later.

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That much oil? Really? –  ashes999 Sep 5 '13 at 22:18
    
No lie. Did you put the fish on a draining rack or paper after cooking it? You'd be amazed at how much oil can just stick to the surface of things. –  sourd'oh Sep 5 '13 at 22:21
    
I did pat the fish down, but very little oil came out of the first few pieces. The latter ones, though ... –  ashes999 Sep 6 '13 at 3:17
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The oil will cool down when you put the fish into the pan. Wait a minute before you fry the next pieces to give the oil time to reheat and evaporate fluid. –  Dr.Molle Sep 7 '13 at 0:28
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