My Father is the master of a great fish fry – moist piles of fish with a crunchy crusted exterior. He makes crusting fish look second nature – something I took for granted for most of my youth until I moved on my own and tried to replicate his success only to find out that I was really good at crusting the frying pan and making a giant mess.
I’ve learned that a good crust is something that’s much more fun to eat than scrape from the bottom of a pan. Here’s what I’ve learned from my Father and others about making a crust stay on your food and out of the pan:
- Try different crusts. I usually use flour, panko or cornmeal although a Rob mentioned on the FaceBook group that chickpea flour also makes a great crust and I’m pretty excited to give it a try.
- Although counter-intuitive, the object you are crusting should be patted dry. Crust sticks far better to a dry item than wet. Case in point: my father often does a light egg batter by dipping fish (which he pats dry with a towel) in flour before dipping into egg.
- Once dredged, your product can sit for a while – but don’t wait too long or it will get moist and cause a mess.
- If using egg, keep a dry hand and a wet hand. This relates to the point above.
- Warm your pan before adding the oil (we add minimal oil in a cat iron pan). You’ll need a lot more warmth than you may think – make it uncomfortably hot (but not glowing red). You don’t want the oil to smoke but it should be close. When a single drop of water (use care – more than a drop is dangerous and will splatter) dances across the surface of the pan, you’re ready to go. It needs to be hot.
- Use a spatula and avoid tongs. Thomas Keller (one of the best American Chef’s in history) outlaws tongs in his kitchen. While we use them at time, they will only serve to remove crust in recipes that call for one. Avoid them.
- Only flip when ready. It’s natural for the item you’re cooking to stick to the pan until it’s ready to flip. Be patient and it will tell you when it’s time to flip (it’s always a bit longer than I think).
- Flip as few times as possible. Be brave – it won’t burn as quick as you fear and the longer it cooks, the tougher the crust.