fry batter help!
I'm trying to refine my fry batter, but dont know really how. I'm willing to experiment, since I haven't really deep-fried much. What should I really put into batter to season? What kind of herbs can I put into it? Is it just egg white, or the whole egg? Oh, and how would I use panko?
re: Non Cognomina
Well, I think I'd like to try meats for now and no seafood, like pork cutlets. Oh yes, and veggies for tempura veggies. Those hints below are very good, thank you very much, but keep them coming!
I'd also like to know whether I need to season the batter. Do I need to put salt and pepper, and herbs into the flour? I guess for genuine tempura, the answers no, since its only 3 ingredients like applehome said.
Panko is not used for batter, but rather as a breading. Some folks think that great Japanese tempura batter has panko in it because of the airy, puffy, crunchy tendrils - but that is the hallmark of really great tempura made strictly from batter - something that the Japanese call zaku-zaku.
To use Panko as a breading for fairly thinly cut and deboned pork cutlets, (also for flattened chicken pieces) s&p the meat, then dredge in turns: flour, then egg wash (beat a whole egg with some water added), then panko. Then deep fat fry the cutlet in peanut oil, or something equivalent that will let you go to 375 without smoking. Good, crispy cutlets aren't very hard to do using panko.
As far as batter goes, there is a lot more to it than can be written in a short post. British style hard crust batter for fish and chips is usually made with beer. Tempura batter is mainly just egg, flour, and water - although there are lots of so-called tricks, like Ming Tsai uses soda water. But the best of the best use the three main ingredients only, cool the mixture down in the fridge before using, and understand the exact ratio's, temp of oil, mixture of oils. and know how to splash the pieces into the oil to get the right amount of zaku-zaku. It's one of the simplest and hardest things to learn in cooking. Tempura masters are few and far between. That's why there are places in Japan that charge more for Tempura than some of the best sushi houses do for sushi. If someone tries to tell you how easy it is, they simply haven't been exposed to the best there is.
But that doesn't mean one shouldn't try to make decent and edible tempura at home. One thing I've learned - make sure that the item is fully patted dry before battering - the more moisture you leave inside, the less likely the item will be crisp, and even if it is crisp right out of the oil, it will turn soggy quickly. Everything becomes soggy after a while - but you should be able to get it to the table and cooled down enough to eat. My mother never sat down with us while cooking tempura - she cooked while we ate. I do the same thing for my family now, whether it's fish and chips or tempura.
For fish and chips, I will dredge the piece of fish (usually haddock) in corn meal before dropping in the batter and then the oil - it helps to retain the moisture inside and helps create and keep a really hard crusty batter coating. This doesn't work for tempura - the batter is lighter (remember zaku-zaku), plus the corn meal flavor is more prominent, whereas it kinda melds with the beer batter.
I don't batter fry chicken and porkchops, I bread them, as I described. There's no reason to use the cornmeal when breading. As far as using cornmeal goes overall, my only issue is that it definitely affects the flavor. I happen to think that on fish and chips with beer batter, it tastes good. But I'm sure many would think it inauthentic. I don't think that the fish and chips I had in the newspaper on the dock in Brighton had corn meal - although the UK flour itself is different from ours, and difficult to replicate.
For certain fishes, I use the cornmeal just by itself. I've always fried up whole catfish (US southern channel cat - this also works on the smaller asian catfish, but not ocean catfish, which is a different beast altogether) by just s&p and dredging in corn meal. It makes a nice crunchy skin. If you fry the farmed catfish filets that are so popular these days, they also taste good just dredged in corn meal - although there is no skin. My only problem with those is that they've bred all the flavor out of them - still, with the cornmeal crust it makes a good fried fish sandwich.
A few hints for tempura, that I learned while working at a Japanese restaurant...
Use ice water to make the batter with. Keep it in the fridge between frying sessions.
Cottonseed oil was used for our tempura frying, although I use peanut oil at the house.
360 was our temp of choice. 375 would cook the tempura bit too fast. And remember it will keep cooking a bit after you remove the items from the oil.
After laying your shrimp into the oil, immediately dip your fingers into the tempura batter and toss/throw additional batter up/down across the length of the shrimp, to give them the "zaku-zaku" (crunchy bits) along the body of the shrimp.
Clean your oil between frying sessions... stir the oil round and round, and the vortex will carry all the little bits to the center of the pan to be scooped out with your spider.
If anyone wants tips on how to prepare the shrimp to stay nice and flat and "tempura" like in shape, let me know?
Like the the previous post, I don't use a batter to fry meat or chicken cutlets/tenders. Just the flour/egg/crumb method. I lightly season the meat, the flour, the eggs(with a little water) with salt and pepper. Depends on what you want in the final taste, you can add spices to the flour and/or fresh herbs to the bread crumb. I like Panko or fresh white breadcrumb (no crust) that I make in a food processor. I don't like dried breadcrumb because the coating becomes hard and dry rather than crispy. Dredge the meat in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip in the egg wash then in the panko or breadcrumb. Pat the crumb to get an even coating. Chilling the meat will help the coating adhere better.
For fried chicken, I just let the pieces marinade in seasoned buttermilk for a few hours. Take the pieces out, leaving as much of the milk on the chicken as possible, then dredge the pieces very well in seasoned flour (salt, pepper, maybe a little cayenne).
I don't deep-fry any of the above things. For meat/chicken cutlets, just 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet. Fry one side then turn and fry the other side, adding a little more oil if needed.
For fried chicken, I use 1/2 inch of shortening.
For seafood such as shrimp, scallop, squid, I just season with salt and pepper, dredge in seasoned flour or cornmeal and deep fry. I might coat the squid in buttermilk before the flour.
I only use batter for tempura and maybe frito misto when I use egg yolks, ice water, flour/cornstarch. As someone states, having everything dry as possible is very important so that the things remain crispy.
Many of Cooks Illustrated books have a great section on frying. Theie discussion on fried chicken is excellent.