Having made mistakes earlier which resulted in undercooked or over-fried chicken, I've been looking for details of how to correctly steam or pressure-cook chicken before shallow frying it.
Recipes like this, this, this and this do not mention necessary details.
This recipe mentions first pressure cooking until the first whistle, but is the water released from the tomato and meat sufficient to generate enough steam? I guess a small pressure cooker would have to be used because of less steam, correct? Am also worried if pieces would stick to the cooker and get burnt. If cooked until the first whistle, the meat is fully cooked. Won't shallow frying overcook it? Should the water from the cooker also be added to the shallow frying pan and the meat fried until the water evaporates?
On the other hand, this recipe recommends steaming 1.5kg chicken for 20 min and uses lettuce to prevent sticking. If the steaming is done with a steamer basket or idli stand, won't the pieces sandwiched between other pieces be undercooked?

Does the pre-cooking have anything to do with the amount of oil used for shallow frying and the duration it is fried?

If you could re-write the recipe for pre-cooking the chicken, how would you write it so that even an inexperienced person would be able to cook it?

Update: recipes like this, this and this explain the procedure, but is the short cooking time really sufficient to cook the meat? When I prepare chicken curry in a pressure cooker, I have to ensure that it is cooked till the first whistle, and after switching off the flame, it's only if I leave the cooker unopened for 2 hours that the meat gets cooked fully. So these recipes with short cooking times leave me wondering if something is wrong. Or is frying naturally faster than boiling?
Update2: I tried the third youtube recipe with four pieces of chicken and proportionally less onion etc. At the blending stage, all the ingredients flew to the sides of the mixie and didn't form the masala paste as desired. The lady uses just 3tbsp oil for 2kg chicken. I used 4tbsp oil and it got absorbed by the chicken and masalas promptly. On closing the lid and allowing the chicken to cook, the masala-onion mixture got burnt within 3 minutes. There goes another unsuccessful attempt at frying chicken. Thankfully this time my losses were only the masalas and onion. This is exactly why I asked my question here. The online recipes do not explain a LOT of steps. I'm pretty sure I was supposed to add more oil and the masalas and onion can be blended only if there is a sufficient quantity to weigh it down onto the mixie blades. That being said, from the smell I could discern that if it did get cooked properly, the result would've been delicious.

  • Could you define what you qualify as "shallow frying"? You've asked about Indian food before, and I've noticed that Indians often qualify cooking in any amount of oil as "frying". (In American cooking, "shallow frying" chicken usually means large parts (whole legs, whole thighs, whole or half breasts, etc.) about 2/3 of the way submerged in oil). I have no idea if this holds true for other English speaking countries, though
    – Joe
    Nov 5, 2020 at 17:39
  • Rather than looking at country-specific practices, I'd suggest examining the cooking principles. My objectives are to get the fried taste without wasting/using too much oil or having too much residual oil in the pan. Also, I do not require the hard and crisp external layer. From what I've eaten, I know there is a way to get that fried taste with less oil and with meat moisture retained to a good extent. Wikipedia has a page on frying and shallow frying. Apparently, techniques differ. My only issue is the lack of details in recipes.
    – Nav
    Nov 6, 2020 at 5:34
  • 1
    But the issue is that the details are going to vary depending on what you're actually trying to do. Are you cooking small, bite-sized pieces in a little bit of oil, or are you breading and frying whole joints of chicken in a large amount of oil? We can't give specific details about the steps to take unless you give us specific details about what you're actually trying to do. Otherwise, it's just 'cook it most of the way, then fry it'
    – Joe
    Nov 6, 2020 at 14:27
  • I intend to use small bite sized pieces in a little bit of oil. The main doubts I have are in the sentences with question marks. Forgive me for the lack of details. It's from the lack of experience.
    – Nav
    Nov 7, 2020 at 12:28
  • It sounds like by "shallow frying" you want to brown your chicken without overcooking it. Is that right?
    – Kat
    Nov 7, 2020 at 21:26

2 Answers 2


I often precook chicken (generally sous vide or slow roasting in a low oven) before frying (American style) fried chicken. The cooking method for the precook essentially doesn't matter. However you precook, you just want to have it reach a suitable temperature to be thoroughly cooked to a food safe temperature.

I usually precook a bit in advance (or the day before) and after precooking, I cool it back down and refrigerate it. This helps to keep the collagen and other "juicy" parts inside by resolidifying in the fridge.

Then I take the cooked, cooled chicken and proceed with the recipe as normal. Cooking is primarily about reheating the chicken, and cooking the breading. I no longer have to worry about hitting the exact food-safe temperature (because I already did that on the first cook!).

For American-style fried chicken, other than starting with fully cooked chicken, the recipe and method can pick up from the "bread/batter then fry" step as normal. This should translate well to other recipes as well, as you're essentially just searing & reheating the chicken at the end in your pan, rather than cooking it.

  • Thank you. The idea of refrigerating it is good. So I allow it to cool first and then refrigerate overnight and fry the next day. But this is for shallow frying. AFAIK, there is no flour/bread added while shallow frying, right? Just frying over high heat and a thin layer of oil is what I understood from the recipes. The duration of frying and so many other details are missing from most recipes.
    – Nav
    Nov 5, 2020 at 3:14

If interested in principles and marching forward from them to whatever particular goal one has that moment, I would point out that frying in oil, noticeable amounts of oil, whether fast food french fry immersion or a traditional American shallow-fry of chicken, people often separate goals into only parts that can be achieved together and cook appropriately.

Prime example is immersion french fry cooking. One fries at a lower temperature to actually do the cooking that gets done, then allows cooling to occur and fries a second time at a rather higher temperature to achieve the crispy outside goal. Show chefs give exact temps and such for these steps, but in truth, you are going to do what your equipment can do, not theirs. For the french fries, you can allow greater cooling in between if you can reach higher temps (within your oil's limits!) during the second fry. That set of conditions determines whether or not the fries are hot inside while achieving the very crispy outside. So they do all flow into one another and make a cohesive whole, but it will differ with the conditions you can achieve in each step.

So, drown them in oil does it. But many take veggies they wish to be oven-baked/fried and cooks them fully in WATER before oiling them up and going to the oven. Conditions again. They will have a fairly long time in the oven usually, so "hot inside" isn't the issue, but since it's not as intense as super-hot oil immersion, one does not let them cool too much in between. This feels like "the other extreme" since it takes some time in the final stage rather than being very quick and involves minimal oil compared to drowning in it during the stage.

In between, oil-wise, would be real shallow-fry. My experience is my mother's in which she cooked smaller pieces than nowadays (40-50 years ago chickens, not the South American condors we cook up today). As they had less meat, she put them in a quarter-inch of oil, electric pan, and it took 35-40 minutes at... whatever... heat setting she used. "Cooked thru" was faster because of less flesh. She did not do breasts this way. I don't cook like that because I flat cannot take the waste of oil. I imagine there are decent ways to solve that as the oil can be re-used, but it smells wherever it is stored so... and there are so many other options. But if I did, I'd have to draw it out, by experience I'd gain, with the fleshier chicken we have today. That would mean a 2-3 step process, like either of the above. I LIKE AMtwo's cool it completely keeping everything where it belongs. However,

It would depend upon the chicken parts you use: breasts, meaty thighs even, they are not thin and taking the time to really warm the inside back to a pleasant temperature might mean too much time with the hot oil on the outside. My mother's quarter-inch of oil would not work today either. I would think you'd have to have it within an inch of the median piece. But then, one need not reach 37 degree meat in the fridge. One can put it in for less time, take it out for cooking, or rising to room temperature at, say, 50-65 degrees. Set, like seems a terrific idea, but not cold enough inside to be problematic. But one might experience that reaching the low fridge temperature is necessary, again due to one's equipment, oil to use, and so on.

For your application, I believe the components I would focus on would be cooking to a safe temperature (See your government about that... fowl are produced in differing conditions in each country. What is safe in yours might be a good deal lower than in my country's filthy torture pens. That could affect your decisions about what is needed to keep the meat moist.) without drying and hardening the meat. In your application, shallow-fry seems like it might at most include the maybe half-inch curved oil pool one might start a stir fry with and that only for moments as it is quickly dispersed onto the food. If aiming at such, it seems to me it would need to be rather hot and kept on the chicken alone for a minute or two before losing the pool. Even then, it might be hard to achieve a lot of "fried flavor" but the moister the chicken, the longer the oil can be allowed a monopoly before really knocking down temperature and amount of oil in contact with the chicken. Some might find they can't precook at all in that circumstance. One would want to be sure spicing done at that stage could stand the high heat. For the masala-onion portion mentioned, I believe the french fry approach is best, complete cooking before going into the pressure cooker, so only crisping is being done, but honestly, one cannot "work" with a pressure cooker, one is bound to a cycle of some kind. No watching for burning, no watching for when water stops leaving the chicken and the outside begins to dry and harden. So maybe do them separately. Many videos seem like one-shots, but are in fact either still edited or done in a "through the magic of... we have one already done" (and it was done differently, for the money shot).

To back out a little as I see I've drifted some, I don't believe fully cooked will fit your application as the chicken is not like french fries that started out 60-70% water. It will take too long to crisp up and achieve the "fried flavor" condition and ruin the outside. And the spices. And anything put in during that ruination. In your case, I'd draw an analogy to red meat. People say "I like it raw!" when they flat don't. Raw is how it looks and feels out of the package and cooked "rare" is way different. It is very noticeable, the rare steak for example, muscle fibers have definition, it is pink, not red, the juices exist, so to speak. It is NOT raw. I would start at whatever you feel is that in analogy in chicken, and I believe I would cut it completely first. Then I would home in on the exact stage near there that it turned out I need as I got experience making your dish. That would then probably be good for many sort-of-the-same dishes, and adjustable if aiming at a different crispiness/fry-i-ness level for other dishes. The experience process will fit the recipe to your equipment, both the stove, the pans on the stove, your oil choices (and freshness... used oil degrades), and even the chicken bits chosen.Even your spicing. Something that cannot take the heat the whole time while the oil owns the chicken can be added right after, or just before adding other items. I hate to sound all comic book-ish, "you will become one with your kitchen universe" and all, but... you will. (Which is something to remember when you teach others. A friend, a child, sooner or later they will not come cook their dinner on your stove, and will need to adapt to their current circumstances.)

Sorry... forgot to mention: Frying is absolutely faster than boiling. If only it were that simple/direct. When frying, you are really boiling for as long as there is noticeable moisture in the fried item. Faster TO the boil (maybe, as one can put hot food into already boiling water and not have a long drop off, seconds perhaps), but then the moisture cools the food surface and immediate under-surface until enough is lost those don't have moisture to heat and steam away anymore. Then it's all frying and your meat can't take that for too too long. My mother aimed at time and the ending of steaming moisture leaving at the oil-chicken meeting point for when it was done. (Gosh, she was a terrible mother! She never checked temperature ever! Beast woman!) And it was. The truth is you fry not for speed, so much, as for flavoring that outermost layer of meat, and in the case of chicken and sometimes fish, achieving crispiness in the skin. But it IS faster, technically. Just not precisely important all the time practically.

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