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Learn the ins and outs of gluten free breading and frying. In this lesson, you will learn to make pan-fried, oven-fried, and deep-fried breaded foods like chicken, fish, vegetables, and cheese. In addition, you will learn how to successfully deep-fry battered items like chicken, tempura, and onion rings. Also covered is the method for frying batter for donuts and churros along with French fries, plain and coated.
If you already know how to bread food like chicken and vegetables and are pleased with your result, congratulations. Keep up the good work. However, if your breading is too soft, too hard, not crispy to your liking, or the breading easily falls off of the food, read on to learn more. There is more to breading than dredging in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs. There is more than one method as well.
First Things First:
If you plan on deep-frying food in a skillet or deep saucepan/Dutch oven, be sure to have a thermometer for the oil temperature as well as one for the internal temperature of meat, poultry, or fish. It is often difficult to keep the oil at a steady temperature when using your stovetop, but it can be done with some patience. A deep-fryer is recommended.
Do not bread your food more than 25 minutes in advance. It really is best to bread the food just before frying. Breading the food in advance results in softened breadcrumbs or crust, especially with gluten free breadcrumbs.
Be sure to cut your food in uniform sizes so that they will fry evenly. If you have different size foods such as wings and breasts, fry them separately.
When deep-frying, always preheat enough oil to cover the item you are frying.
Your first step is to season the food you plan on breading. Salt and pepper usually are sufficient. If you wish to season the chicken with herbs or other spices, it is best to add those to the flour/starch.
Frying the Food:
Before you begin the breading process, be sure that your food is dry. If you have wet vegetables or meat, first pat them with a clean tea towel or clean paper towels. Chicken tends to stick to paper towels. Therefore, I like to allow it to rest overnight, uncovered, in the refrigerator, or at least for a few hours, to allow the surface to dry out.
If you prefer, you may coat the food with flour to ensure that it is dry. The preferred flour is rice flour as it crisps easily. If you wish to use starch, cornstarch has the highest crisping qualities, followed by potato starch. When all else fails, you may use an all-purpose gluten free flour that contains rice in its ingredients.
Egg Wash or Other Coating:
After you coat the items in flour, you will dip the food in egg wash. To make an egg wash, whisk together 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) liquid (water or milk) per large egg. Some items should be dipped in buttermilk or milk.
There are a number of gluten free bread crumbs on the market which all vary in their results. You may also use saved breadcrumbs from slicing homemade gluten free bread (more about that later) or make your own. You can use slightly stale gluten free bread with the crust removed. Crumble the bread and use as is or dry further in a preheated 200⁰F oven until almost dry.
Whether you use homemade or commercial bread crumbs, gluten free breadcrumbs containing both flour (rice, millet, sorghum, etc.) and starch (cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca, etc.) will create a tender crust. If the breadcrumbs contain all starch, your fried food may even be a little chewy, especially tapioca. However, tapioca browns extremely well. Rice flour is the best at maintaining and achieving crisp crust when frying. In addition to rice flour, sugar also helps achieve a crisp crust. Even natural sugar found in fruit can help browning and crispness.
Whether you fry your food in a skillet or bake in an oven, follow the below steps:
- Preheat the oil in your fryer, skillet, or oven, to the temperature called for in your recipe. Depending on the food and the ingredients you use in the breading process, the temperature will vary. Batters heavy in oil or butter brown faster. Rice flour browns slower than tapioca starch, etc.
- Dredge your poultry, meat, or vegetable in flour to coat all sides; shake off any excess flour.
- Dip the floured item in a bowl of egg wash, milk, or buttermilk.
- With the bread crumbs in a shallow bowl or plate, pat the item into the crumbs to cover all sides.
- Fry your food in small batches because overcrowding your skillet or oil in a deep-fryer will cool the oil quickly resulting in slower cooking, less browned and crisp food as well as greasy food. The breading or batter then begins to separate from the food due to built up moisture. Fry the items until they are thoroughly cooked and crispy brown. (See the Internal Temperatures section below for meat, poultry, and fish.) For any food that does not cook through but is adequately brown, finish cooking by baking on a baking sheet in a preheated 350⁰F oven. When pan-frying, be sure to fry the side that you want to show off when plating the item first. The side first fried will brown the best. Once brown enough, flip it over and fry the other side until the food is thoroughly cooked.
- Remove food from oil or the oven and rest on layers of clean paper towels to absorb excess oil.
- Discard any unused flour, egg wash, breadcrumbs, etc. that has come in contact with raw food of any kind, including vegetables.
The above should result in crisp fried food that is moist inside. Soggy breading is an indication of frying at too low of a temperature, overcrowding the oil, which lowers the temperature, the item was breaded too far in advance, or the fried item sat too long before serving (results in steaming the crust).
Preventing the Breading From Separating From the Food:
Not drying the food prior to breading may cause the cooked breading to fall off of the food. However, covering the skillet of your breaded food will also cause the breading to separate from the food. Therefore, it is best not to cover the food. As an example, you may wish to cover a skillet of large chicken breasts to ensure the center is sufficiently cooked. Instead of covering the chicken, continue to cook them by baking in a preheated 350⁰F oven, uncovered. Baking will also help keep the breading crisp.
Beef, lamb, and lamb should be fried to a temperature of 135 – 170⁰F (rare to well-done.)
Pork such as ham should be fried to 160 – 170⁰F.
Poultry internal temperatures vary. Thighs, wings, and legs are small and should be fried to an internal temperature of 180⁰F, while breasts should be cooked to 170⁰F. Whole birds are fried to 180⁰F.
Fish is to be fried only to 145⁰F. You want to ensure that the fish is still moist. When checking for doneness, look for an opaque coloring.
The Exceptions to the Rule: You don’t have to use egg wash and breadcrumbs. You can lightly dust the item with tons of coarsely ground pepper, some cornstarch, or brown rice flour. Brown rice and cornstarch each create crispness. You can also use a batter. Another option is to use flour, egg, and more flour instead of breadcrumbs. Read on to learn about these other options.
When making French fries, be sure to use low-moisture potatoes such as Idaho, Russets, and sweet potatoes. All of these potato varieties are starchy as well. If you leave the skin on, because their skins are thick, they will crisp well too.
You’ll be frying them twice. In the first frying/blanching stage, be sure to fry the potatoes in a lower temperature oil such as 300⁰F. Drain off the excess oil, allow them to cool about 5 minutes, and just prior to serving increase the temperature to 350 – 375⁰F and fry again. The thickness of your fries will determine the temperature. The thinner they are, the lower the temperature. Matchstick potatoes need an even lower temperature or less frying.
Once the fries are cooked a second time, be sure to drain them again on paper towels. Season the fries while warm and serve immediately.
Frying Cheese and Ice Cream
To successfully fry items that easily melt when heated, freeze the items until they are very hard.
Frying Battered Food
You can easily make a batter to coat items like Mozzarella sticks, onion rings, and more. To do so, just follow the instructions in the below recipes in the Assignments section like the Mozzarella Sticks, Onion Rings, or Churros, which is all batter.
Gluten Free Beer Substitution:
Whenever a battered recipe calls for gluten free beer, you may substitute it with sparkling water such as Pierre or another brand. However, your item will not turn out as brown as when using beer. You can always add a teaspoon of sugar to the batter to aid in additional crisping and browning.
When making batters for things like churros, if you use milk, the outside of the item will be a little softer. Water creates a slight crispness, and sparkling water creates an even crisper crust.
The use of butter will also make the items a little softer. Oil always makes fried food crisper.
Donuts and Dairy-Free Substitutes
When frying donuts, you want to use milk or buttermilk to soften the batter or dough. A great dairy-free substitute for butter is coconut oil, though it will make things crisper. Instead, you can always use a portion of canned full-fat coconut milk and coconut oil to soften the dough up a little. Just remember that you will need to mix any dairy-free buttermilk substitute with vinegar. (See the Substitution page.) This recipe works out most of the time.
When reusing oil that has previously been used for frying different types of food, realize that the flavor may transfer to your next fried food. A couple examples of this are when using hot spices in a batter such as chili powder or cayenne pepper. Another example is the flavor and aroma of fish.
Make one of the below recipes:
Gluten Free Mozzarella Sticks (Use the super crispy batter in the recipe or fry using breading of your choice).
Remember, you can always access previous lessons on the Syllabus page.