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Dumb pan-frying question: Why does my oil turn brown?

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Here's what happens when someone tries to teach herself to cook -- she misses out on some important step that everyone else seems to know.

I was making my mother's chicken tenders. Take chicken, dip in egg, coat with Italian breadcrumbs, fry in pan in oil. I used olive oil, extra virgin, about an eighth of an inch. I guess more oil than a saute, less than a fry? I dunno. Medium-high to medium heat.

Anyway, after the first batch, whicih came out great (I had a bunch of chicken to do), the second and subsequent batches always turn out burnt. It's not that I'm cooking them too long -- the chicken isn't done inside. How do I keep the oil from getting burnt so my second batch of tenders looks like my first?

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  1. Don't use olive oil if you don't want it to burn. It has a low smoke point. Many will recommend other vegetable oils (which I prefer not to use), but I would recommend trying coconut oil.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pescatarian

      I usually just use vegetable oil, but I didn't have enough on hand. I still had the problem with that, but maybe my heat was too high.

      1. re: Covert Ops

        I find that when I use vegetable oil, I have to lower it after it initially heats up to keep it at a medium temp and in between batches, I need to clean the pan a little with paper towel and add more oil. Olive oil will definitely burn faster though.

    2. Not a dumb question at all.

      Probably what happened was that the oil just got too hot after the first batch. Try turning down the heat toward the end of the first batch to @ medium or even medium low. If it looks like the chicken isn't cooking quickly enough, as you go through that second batch, you can always turn it back up a bit.

      I once had a gas stove with a temperature gauge on one of the burners and, while it wasn't perfect, it did do a pretty good job of keeping the temperature at an even level.

      1. Keep the amount of oil lower, as you will have to wipe out the pan with a dry paper towel
        every 2-3 batches. And yes, I use vegetable oil in frying also, but never tried coconut before. I use generic from the grocer.

        1. You have the pan too hot. The first batch is just hot enough, and for later batches too hot, burns the crust, undercooks the inside. Moderate the temp of pan as you cook. I throw in a bit of crumbs to oil before each batch to see if hot enough or over hot.

          1. all good suggestions above - I would add that peanut oil has a high smoke point. For the first few times you do it, you could try using a candy thermometer to make the temp is where you want it (maybe about 325-350?)