1

I've been cooking for myself since summer started and have been pan-frying a lot of chicken breasts in Sunflower oil. They taste great, but from about halfway through, there's a TON of splattering. Even with the splatter shield it makes a mess of the stove.

I cook them on medium, which takes about 12-14 minutes a side on my stove. Reducing the heat doesn't help much and just takes longer to finish cooking them. I've also tried adding more oil, but that doesn't prevent the splattering either.

  • Probably as the meat cooks the protein contracts, effectively squeezing moisture out of the meat, which when met with the heat of a pan and hot oil, splatters around. I have no references at the moment, so if nobody else posts an answer I'll hunt and find something. – Ming Aug 13 '14 at 4:58
  • Since the water is produced halfway through cooking, I'd speculate that you're observing an effect of the Maillard reaction which denatures the proteins in meat and releases water. – MaxW Apr 12 '18 at 2:00
2

The reason why fried meat splatters is that correct frying temperatures (~ 180 Celsius pan surface) are well above the vaporizing temperature of water (100 Celsius). Each droplet of cell plasma which comes into contact with the frying fat creates a tiny steam explosion. And explosions splatter.

If you were meaning to ask not why it splatters, but how to prevent it: you can't. See also the existing question about it.

On a side note, 12-14 minutes per side of chicken breast sounds like you are reducing it to particleboard. See this question for correct internal temepratures.

  • At 12 minutes a side at medium, by the time the inside reaches ~150-160, the outside is usually thoroughly browned. – mowwwalker Aug 13 '14 at 5:40
  • 1
    @mowwwalker maybe your pan temperature is too low? they take about 3-4 minutes per side for me. Also, if you keep your fridge very cold, you can try resting them about 20 min before frying. Unless you are happy with the texture, of course, then there's no need to change anything. – rumtscho Aug 13 '14 at 5:42
  • Hmm, well I freeze them and then defrost them in the fridge overnight. They're usually out for about half an hour before they hit the pan. It might be a bad pan? – mowwwalker Aug 13 '14 at 5:46
  • @mowwwalker I can't imagine a pan to be that bad. But if your fridge is barely above 0, maybe defrosting overnight leaves them with a partly frozen kernel? I never use frozen chicken breasts. You can try measuring the inside before frying, and if it is much below 4 Celsius when coming out of the fridge, change some practices, maybe defrost a day earlier. You can also measure the pan surface with an infrared thermometer. Again, it's only relevant if you are unhappy with the current result. – rumtscho Aug 13 '14 at 5:49
  • @mowwwalker If your chicken breasts are a lot larger than rumstcho's, that could explain the difference too. If they're really thick you might want to try butterflying them. (See this question, for example.) – Cascabel Aug 13 '14 at 6:35
2

In addition to @Rumtscho's answer: chicken breast is often injected with water to increase profit, especially when you buy it in discount stores.
When you heat it, that water turns to steam, and if it leaks first into the hot oil or butter you get serious splatter.
It's bad enough some people call it "exploding chicken", and radical vegan organisations use it as an instrument to try to force laws against eating chicken, and especially against selling meat at a discount.

Frying time would of course depend heavily on the thickness of the chicken breasts as well as the heat you're using. And whether you spread them open before frying, if you don't they're twice as thick and will take a lot longer (and can easily be blackened on the outside while still raw on the inside).

Personally, I've had good results putting chicken breasts in the oven. Spice as desired, then fry lightly to get a nice crisp crust on them, cook in the oven at 175C for about half an hour to get them well done and still nicely moist.
No splatter that way either.

1

A little trick my mother taught me - add a pinch of all purpose white flour to the oil before adding in whatever you're frying. It won't totally eliminate the amount of splatter, it will greatly reduce it, although I'm not sure of the science behind it.

Beware though, that adding the flour will tend to burn the flour, so do be mindful of temperatures. About 160C (320F) for cooking oil temp with flour. I typically shallow fry on the stovetop for about 10-12 minutes total for chicken breasts and then transfer them to a 175C (347F) oven to finish cooking.

  • 1
    I just had to throw in the Fahrenheit values. For those of us used to Fahrenheit, Celsius requires translation. At any rate, thank you for your interesting answer. I'll try it out soon. – Jolenealaska Aug 13 '14 at 15:49
  • Certainly understand :) I'm in the east coast (US) but have been trying to switch to metric. – jsanc623 Aug 13 '14 at 16:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.