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Eggplant avoiding soggy, oily

sylvan Sep 7, 2010 12:17 AM

Any tips to avoid soggy, oily eggplant when pan frying/browning?
When I've attempted it, I have to throw it out because it soaks up oil like a sponge.
About how long does eggplant at 1/2 - 3/4" thick take to be fully cooked?
I was thinking perhaps I should bake it rather than brown it but then I'd miss the
crust. At 110-117 degrees these weeks here in the desert, it's too hot outside to fiddle with a grille.

  1. s
    sylvan Sep 8, 2010 05:31 PM

    Great tips...and thanks

    1. greygarious Sep 8, 2010 12:59 PM

      The larger, darker varieties of eggplant, like the common dark purple ones, are more likely to be bitter than smaller, paler-skinned types. Also, early-harvest eggplant have fewer seeds and are less bitter than ones picked at the end of the season, and really don't need salting.

      Check the "eggplant-o-rama" and "eggplant on the wafflebaker" threads.

      1 Reply
      1. re: greygarious
        jen kalb Sep 8, 2010 01:15 PM

        its a good idea to look for lighter rather than heavier eggplants. The smaller varietes also tend to be less bitter. I dont always salt and drain, especially with the smaller types. You can pangrill eggplant pretty well in a cast iron pan just lightly brushed with oil - . You can use a non-oiled grill pan, which works very well - make sure it is well cooked doing it this way.. Or, you can toss your eggplant with some live oil and bake/broil in the oven. All of these ways work well - you can then sauce the eggplant. One of our favorite dishes is italian grilled eggplant dredged with chopped garlic and mint and then douses with olive oil and perhaps a tiny bit of vinegar. it keeps beautifully and is full of flavor.

      2. b
        Breezychow Sep 7, 2010 03:42 PM

        I've solved this problem completely by simply never frying eggplant anymore (unless I'm doing a wok stirfry).

        I preheat the oven to 475, place the sliced eggplant on a spray-oiled baking sheet & brush it lightly with extra-virgin olive oil. Then I sprinkle on seasonings (crushed red pepper flakes, granulated garlic, dried oregano or dried Italian Seasoning, etc., etc.). Bake for 15 minutes or until slices just start to soften & slightly brown. Flip slices, rebrush with oil, reseason, bake for another 10 minutes or so, & then use in whatever recipe you have that calls for greasey "fried" eggplant". Although, these turn out so well that we sometimes enjoy them as a vegetable side just on their own or with some melted cheese on top.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Breezychow
          sylvan Sep 7, 2010 06:44 PM

          I'm going to try your advice. Sounds like the best way to avoid the grease and fry all together.

        2. jmckee Sep 7, 2010 10:00 AM

          Cut up, toss with a bit of kosher salt, put in a colander, weight down for half an hour or so. Wipe clean with paper towels. You'll find they crisp up much better, and if large are far less prone to bitterness.

          3 Replies
          1. re: jmckee
            sylvan Sep 7, 2010 11:25 AM

            Thanks. I never knew the importance of drying out the eggplant before cooking.

            1. re: sylvan
              Adrienne Sep 7, 2010 02:18 PM

              Oh, the salt thing is huge. It really improves the flavor too -- way less bitter. I salt longer than the other posters here -- I also use kosher salt and put it in a colander but I actually put a small pan on top of that with some cans of soup or something to weigh it down, and I let the salt pull out water for at least 2 hours, stirring the eggplant around halfway through.

              1. re: sylvan
                jmckee Sep 8, 2010 10:09 AM

                I do it with zucchini too. I remember my son, when quite young, being AMAZED at how much liquid got pulled out.

            2. ipsedixit Sep 7, 2010 09:55 AM

              You can definitely bake the eggplants, and if you want a nice crust, finish it off under the broiler.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ipsedixit
                sylvan Sep 7, 2010 11:22 AM

                Your idea sounds ideal for me.

              2. rcallner Sep 7, 2010 09:52 AM

                Do you have a George Foreman grill? They brown eggplant slices really nicely with no added oil.

                1 Reply
                1. re: rcallner
                  sylvan Sep 7, 2010 11:19 AM

                  I have a toaster oven and panini press. I can try toasting them and then finish off in the oven to cook them. I'll experiment. Thanks!

                2. c
                  cheesemonger Sep 7, 2010 07:09 AM

                  Use a basting brush to control the oil- because yes, as you've found, the eggplant will soak up ever bit of oil available.

                  1. mamachef Sep 7, 2010 07:07 AM

                    One thing that works well for me is to lightly score and salt each slice or chunk, and then put them on a slantboard (or for chunks) a colander for an hour. Then press gently and dry. Remember when you cook it, there's salt already. This method pulls a ton of water out of the 'plant, which is probably what's hindering you. You can also rinse the slices quickly and dry them if you want. Oh, and a half-inch slice of eggplant should take 2-3 minutes per side, probably closer to 3, if you want to serve it that way, or you could flash-brown it and finish in a hot oven. Finally, if you use Panko, and do the oven method, your food should stay crisp.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: mamachef
                      sylvan Sep 7, 2010 11:18 AM

                      You're right. I never knew to "dry out" the eggplant before cooking. Thanks!

                      1. re: sylvan
                        goodhealthgourmet Sep 7, 2010 07:36 PM

                        +1. salting, weighting & draining the eggplant is the best way to prevent the sponge effect :)

                    2. l
                      lidia Sep 7, 2010 02:51 AM

                      I have found that a wok works well for sautéeing eggplant cut into cubes or sticks. You can get a nice semi-charred/caramelized effect without too much oil, but you'll still want to use somewhat more oil than if you were stir-frying other vegetables. Don't crowd too much; two handfuls of eggplant pieces is about the limit of my wok, to which I first put a couple of Tbsp. oil until it starts to shimmer/smoke. Then I drizzle on another 1-2 Tbsp. oil as I go -- just enough to prevent sticking. Not sure on time.. ten minutes or so? That will depend on the eggplant, your wok and your burner output.

                      If the eggplant must be in slices, you could try brushing each slice with oil and then using your oven's broiler. I have no idea about cooking time; it will depend on your oven and how close the slices are to the heat.

                      If I'm making eggplant parmesan, I dredge the slices in flour and then beaten egg (NO bread crumbs!), which I fry in about 1/2"-1/4" of oil in a frying pan until the egg coating is crispy, and a light to medium brown. They come out somewhat oily but not too bad after blotting w/paper towels. The coating prevents the oil from getting immediately into the inside of the slice, and tomato sauce ends up 'cutting' the excess grease.

                      I also find that the larger eggplants can be more spongy. At the market two weeks ago, I found some fairly ugly smallish ones (the only ones they had) for which I did not hold high hopes. They were very dense, and cutting them was like cutting an apple. As it turns out, they came out the best I had ever had: very sweet flavor and very little oil absorption. They didn't collapse while cooking, but maintained their shape. We are probably all getting short-changed in the Eggplant Quality department, generally speaking!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: lidia
                        sylvan Sep 7, 2010 11:16 AM

                        Good tip on not using bread crumbs in the dredge. I'll look for smaller, firmer eggplants when shopping per your experience.

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