Pan frying vs. deep frying
TV chefs would have you believe that deep frying uses less oil than pan frying (Alton.) Is one method less fattening than the other? I'm thinking about things like eggplant slices and homefries--it seems that the veggies soak up a lot of oil pan frying.
Products that absorb oil during any type of frying (pan or deep) do so for 2 reasons.
#2 (Old, burnt oil that should have been discarded.
#1 Oil is too cool to start with OR oil temperature drops a lot AFTER you put the product in (most common in homes)
Pan frying uses only a small amount of oil so it is more likely to lose its temperature, therefore causing the product to soak up the oil. PROPERLY done with a high-output burner pan frying will result in similar oil absorption rates when compared to deep frying.
I've never done a controlled Good Eats style experiment, but after trying several foods both ways I go with deep frying most of the time. Consider what happens when you pan fry a battered or breaded item like a fish fillet or slice of eggplant. While you cook one side, the other side is getting splashed with not very hot oil that just soaks in. At the same time steam is turning your raw breading/batter into mush. Then you flip the food and the previously cooked side gets the oil splash/steam treatment. Deep fry and you cook half as long and the breading/batter cooks quickly comes out crisp.
Pan frying is great for plain or marinated foods because it caramelizes the surface nicely, but otherwise go with the deep fry.